Could shuttle's final flight launch your alternative investment portfolio?
Atlantis' last flight may be good news for investors keen to capitalise on space shuttle memorabilia
The US space shuttle programme has been a rich hunting ground for collectors and alternative investors.
And the desirability of such items is expected to soar as the programme is confined to the history books.
Atlantis is mid-way through the final space shuttle voyage. On Sunday it successfully docked with the International Space Station and is due to return to earth on July 20.
While enthusiasts are shedding a tear, space investors may be more upbeat.
In years to come, items from this historical last flight could well surpass those from previous trips, such is the affection for these space shuttles.
Commander John Young's flown flight suit patches from Columbia's first mission in 1981 recently achieved $56,762 at auction.
Earlier this year an insulator panel flown aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger during its STS-41G mission in October 1984, complete with its NASA paperwork, sold for $7,550 at a Lunar Legacies auction.
Even models can sell. An early shuttle replica based on initial design concepts achieved $23,180 at auction in 2009.
The lucrative "nostalgia" factor is expected to be especially important in the case of space shuttle collectibles, due to the unknown future of the US space programme, with no concrete word on its next steps.
So where next for space collectors? China is expected to establish its own space station in 2020, the same year that the International Space Station is expected to be abandoned, while India hopes to put a man in space in 2016.
Atlantis will find a permanent home at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, where she will inspire a new generation of space enthusiasts keen to collect the finest space memorabilia.
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