SEOUL—Hyundai Motor Group and a coalition of aerospace partners has started building a prototype for an autonomous vehicle to explore the surface of the moon.

In July 2022, the Group signed a joint multilateral research agreement with six Korean research institutes in the aerospace sector to develop a vehicle to explore the lunar surface.

The coalition includes Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute; Electronics and Telecommunication Research Institute; Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology; Korea Aerospace Research Institute; Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute; and Korea Automotive Technology Institute.

Following discussions with various stakeholders, the Group decided the direction for the initial lunar rover model. The Group expects to complete an initial prototype as soon as the second half of 2024 and aims to create a launchable vehicle by 2027.

“Hyundai has consistently stated its goal is to contribute to expanding human reach and the scope of human mobility experiences,” says Yong Wha Kim, executive vice president and head of the R&D Planning and Coordination Center of Hyundai Motor and Kia. “The creation of the lunar exploration mobility development model not only reflects this goal, but also shows our ambition to achieve tangible results in the face of significant challenges. With the rover’s development, we are moving beyond land, sea and air mobility to expand into space mobility.”

Hyundai will be responsible for creating the lower section of the rover, while the upper section will consist of scientific payloads for lunar surface exploration. The rover will have thermal management function and radiation shielding to withstand the extreme environment of the lunar surface.

The rover will be designed to hold a variety of technologies for digging, excavation and human exploration of the lunar surface for resources. Ultimately, the goal is to deliver a universally applicable mobility platform to handle a variety of payloads.

Following development, testing and refinement, the plan is to land the rover near the south pole of the moon to carry out various scientific missions. The solar-powered, autonomous driving mobility unit will weigh around 70 kilograms.