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This space stock is soaring as next commercial moon lander mission looms

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Shares of space-exploration company Intuitive Machines Inc. climbed 23% on Wednesday ahead of the launch of the firm’s commercial lunar lander, which could come as soon as next month.

The company’s stock, which ended the session at $2.83, registered its highest close since Dec. 15, 2023, when it closed at $2.80, according to Dow Jones Market Data. Intuitive’s shares also registered their largest daily percentage increase since April 26, 2023, when they rose 32.28%. 

Intuitive Machines
LUNR,
+23.04%

is in the spotlight after rival Astrobotic Technology’s private lunar lander ran into problems just hours into its maiden mission Monday. A propellant leak doomed the moon-landing mission to failure, Astrobotic announced Tuesday. The Peregrine lander had been expected to reach the lunar surface on Feb. 23, where it was to conduct a series of experiments for NASA.

Related: ‘No chance of a soft landing on the moon,’ says maker of private lunar lander

“As partners in advancing lunar exploration, Intuitive Machines understands and shares the collective disappointment of unforeseen challenges,” Intuitive Machines told MarketWatch on Tuesday. “Despite meticulous planning and rigorous testing, the harsh requirements for space exploration can introduce unexpected factors that impact mission outcomes. It is a testament to the resilience of the space community that we continue to push the boundaries of our understanding, embracing the inherent risks in our pursuit of opening access to the moon for the progress of humanity.”

Intuitive Machines is planning to send its Nova-C lunar lander to the moon atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket as early as next month. The IM-1 mission’s launch is targeted for a multi-day launch window that opens no earlier than mid-February, given the monthly lunar blackout period, the company said in a recent update. Nova-C will land near the moon’s South Pole, where the correct lighting conditions are only available for a handful of days every month.

Like Astrobotic’s Peregrine, Intuitive’s Nova-C is part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative to deliver science and technology to the moon’s surface. In the IM-1 mission, Nova-C will carry five NASA payloads and a commercial payload. Its scientific objectives include studies of plume-surface interactions, radio astronomy and space weather interactions with the lunar surface, according to NASA. The lander will also be used to demonstrate precision-landing technologies and communication and navigation-node capabilities. 

Related:These are the space stocks to keep an eye on in 2024

The lunar lander is scheduled for three missions to the moon, each of which have slight vehicle modifications, according to Intuitive Machines.

Commercial moon landers are important scouting missions ahead of the return of American astronauts to the lunar surface as part of NASA’s Artemis program. On Tuesday, NASA said that it is now targeting September 2025 for its first crewed Artemis mission around the moon, and September 2026 for its crewed Artemis mission to land astronauts near the lunar South Pole. That mission would mark humanity’s return to the moon, more than 50 years after the Apollo 17 mission took the last astronauts to the lunar surface. Previously, NASA had planned to launch its crewed Artemis mission around the moon in late 2024, and land astronauts on the moon in 2025.

Intuitive Machines’ shares have fallen 71.8% in the last 52 weeks, compared with the S&P 500 index’s
SPX
gain of 20.5%.

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