Tesla On Falcon Heavy
Of course we need to start this list with Elon Musk’s Starman cruising through space in a Tesla Roadster. Being the CEO of a car company and a rocket company has its perks, and whether you’re a fan of Musk or not, he does know how to get the attention of the world.
GM Robonaut 2
General Motors actually has a long history with NASA and America’s efforts in space exploration. Back in 2010 the automaker unveiled Robonaut 2, and as the name suggests, it’s a robotic humanoid astronaut that can perform dexterous tasks in dangerous environments. It went to the International Space Station aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in early 2011.
Audi Lunar Quattro
In 2016 Audi partnered with a group called Part-Time Scientists to build and launch a small moon rover. The goal is to launch it in 2019 and touch down at the Apollo 17 landing site, which was the final manned lunar mission in 1972. If Audi is successful – and gets there before other companies – it can claim the $30 million Google Lunar XPrize.
Though not necessarily a space-use item, the RoboGlove was developed by GM with NASA and came out of the previously-mentioned Robonaut program. This battery-powered glove can sense the pressure exerted by its wearer and add strength to help reduce fatigue. It has plenty of uses on Planet Earth, though we can certainly see it being awesome in space as well.
GM/Apollo Lunar Rover
Tesla may claim to have the first production-based vehicle in space, but the Lunar Rover will always hold the title as the first car to actually be used in space. It was built with considerable input from General Motors and was vital to exploring larger regions of the Moon in later Apollo missions.
Toyota 'Voice' For Kirobo Robot Astronaut
Kirobo was jointly developed by several companies in Japan and went to the International Space Station in 2013. Its purpose is to help develop and fine-tune the way robots and humans interact in zero-gravity, with Toyota creating Kirobo’s voice recognition functionality.
Nissan/NASA Autonomous Vehicle Development
Nissan and NASA have been working together on autonomous systems for a few years now. Just last month Nissan announced an extension to the research agreement, which will help improve autonomous systems for vehicles on Earth and NASA’s expanding fleet of interplanetary rovers.
NASA/Parker Brothers Concepts Mars Rover
We reported on this awesome, fully-functional concept rover last June, which was built by Parker Brothers Concepts and unveiled at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It’s just a demonstrator, but we sure hope something like this accompanies the first manned mission to Mars.
This vehicle isn’t the least bit space-worthy, nor does it offer grand technology. It did, however, carry Space Shuttle crews to and from the pad for over 30 years. It’s an iconic machine among astronauts, and certainly worthy of being on our list.
Photo Credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann
Featured in the 2017 film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, it’s the automaker’s take on interplanetary travel 700 years from now. Yes this is purely a fictional flight-of-fancy, but the imagination of science-fiction has long driven the dreams of space exploration in real-life. Without such dreams, space travel could never be a reality.
Lexus QZ 618
Lexus certainly has a thing for space, at least in the science fiction realm. We already saw the Skyjet, but we can't ignore the bonkers QZ 618 Galactic Enforcer from the 2019 sci-fi comedy Men In Black: International. In fact, we're starting to wonder if Lexus has some secret space contract with world governments.
Toyota Pressurized Lunar Rover
This proposed rover isn't some small, autonomous explorer. Toyota and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency have agreed to build this fully pressurized rover in anticipation for a manned return to the Moon. Essentially a space RV, it's over 19 feet long with 459 cubic feet (13 cubic meters) of room inside. It runs on fuel cells with rechargeable solar cells, and a prototype should be ready by 2022.
Honorable Mention: The Chevy Corvettes Of Mercury, Gemini, And Apollo
General Motors didn’t officially have any agreements in place with America’s pioneering astronauts, but the men did have an affinity for the Chevy Corvette. It started with Alan Shepherd (pictured here in the center with GM executives), but all of the original Mercury astronauts save for John Glenn would go on to own a ‘Vette. The tradition extended all the way through the Gemini and Apollo missions into the early 1970s.
15 / 15