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Space stock Intuitive Machines climbs ahead of historic commercial moon-landing mission

Shares of space-exploration company Intuitive Machines Inc. climbed 7.3% on Monday as the lunar-landing spotlight shifts onto the Houston-based firm.

Last week, U.S. private space company Astrobotic Technology ended its troubled mission to place a lander on the moon when its Peregrine spacecraft completed its controlled re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. Then on Friday, Japan’s Smart Lander for Investigating Moon, or SLIM, successfully landed on the lunar surface. Communication was established with the spacecraft, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), although SLIM’s solar panels were not charging, prompting scientists to power it down before a restart attempt.

Against this backdrop, Intuitive Machines LUNR, +7.28% is preparing for the launch of its first commercial lunar lander, which could come as early as next month. The lander’s goal is to become the first private U.S. probe on the moon.

Related: Space stocks rally despite Virgin Galactic’s decline

The Houston-based company is planning to send its Nova-C lunar lander to the moon atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla. The IM-1 mission’s launch is targeted for a multiday 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 available for only a few days each month.

The lander will carry five NASA payloads, as well as commercial cargo. The mission’s scientific objectives include studies of plume-surface interactions, radio astronomy and space-weather interactions with the lunar surface, according to NASA.

Commercial moon landings are important scouting missions ahead of the return of U.S. astronauts to the moon as part of NASA’s Artemis program. Earlier this month, NASA said it is now targeting September 2025 for its first crewed Artemis mission around the moon, and September 2026 for its Artemis mission to land astronauts near the lunar south pole. 

Related: This space stock is soaring as next commercial moon-landing mission looms

Shares of Intuitive Machines registered their biggest daily percentage increase Monday since Jan. 10, when they rose 23%. Intuitive Machines’ stock ended Friday’s session up 1.6% to snap a two-day winless stretch. (Shares closed unchanged on Jan. 17.) The space-exploration company’s stock is down 72.3% in the past 52 weeks, compared with the S&P 500 SPX index’s gain of 20.7%.

Fellow space stock Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. SPCE, +6.77% rose 6.8% Monday, while Momentus Inc. MNTS, +2.56%, which provides satellite transportation and servicing, rose 2.6%. Shares of Earth-imaging company Planet Labs PBC PL, +8.06% ended Monday’s session up 8.1% and the Procure Space ETF UFO rose 1.2%.

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