Space exploration specialist Intuitive Machines (NASDAQ:LUNR) — which focuses on lunar orbit delivery and communication services — saw its market value pop higher on Monday. With launch partner SpaceX, the company plans to make history with its Nova-C commercial lunar lander. Additionally, LUNR stock has benefited tremendously this year due in part to renewed interest in missions to the moon.
According to MarketWatch, Intuitive Machines is aiming for a launch window that begins early in the morning of Feb. 14. The Nova-C will be launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. If all goes to plan, the lunar lander should touch down on the moon on Feb. 22.
Should the mission be successful, the Nova-C will represent the first commercial U.S. lunar lander to reach the moon’s surface. MarketWatch noted that last month, Astrobotic Technology — a private U.S. space company — ended its troubled mission to place a lander on the moon.
Naturally, interest in LUNR stock spiked on investment-related social media platforms. Shares initially gained about 22% earlier in the day before paring down gains to roughly 3% up.
Notably, the IM1 mission is Intuitive’s first lunar landing attempt within NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative. This directive is a component of the Artemis program seeking to return American astronauts to the moon.
LUNR Stock Lifts Off on Renewed Interest in Space Exploration
Beyond just the technical bragging rights for accomplishing a complex operation, the Nova-C will carry NASA science and technology instruments. These specialized components will focus on plume-surface interactions, space-weather and lunar-surface interactions, radio astronomy, precision-landing technologies and a communication and navigation node for future autonomous navigation technologies.
Moreover, LUNR stock should enjoy a credibility boost as commercial moon landings offer important scouting data for the Artemis program. Last month, NASA stated that it’s targeting September 2025 for its first crewed Artemis mission around the moon. One year later, the program will attempt to land astronauts near the lunar south pole.
Fundamentally, LUNR stock benefits from the underlying enterprise’s established relationship with the space agency. In November 2022, Intuitive announced that NASA authorized the lunar specialist to utilize its mission control and global ground station network to track Artemis 1 – a mission centered on an uncrewed moon-orbiting spacecraft – using one-way Doppler measurements.
As NPR noted, much science remains to be done on the moon. For one thing, scientists can conduct research regarding the earth’s geologic history. In addition, lunar flights and data collection could spur new technologies. Previous preparations for moon and space exploration missions brought significant benefits to society, including hand-held computers, insulin pumps and freeze-dried food.
Why It Matters
Ultimately, the biggest prize for the space industry zeroes in on putting astronauts on the surface of Mars. Therefore, by establishing a foothold on the moon, NASA could make a mission to Mars more feasible. With that in mind, analysts rate LUNR stock a unanimous strong buy with a $6.08 average price target.
On the date of publication, Josh Enomoto did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.