The Space Cowboys

Rocket tourism may seem flighty. But Richard Branson and others might have the money and smarts to launch us all

Brian Smith for TIME

Sir Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Group companies, on his private island, Necker Island.

This is, without a doubt, the sexiest settingĀ ever for a meeting of aspiring astronauts: under swaying palm trees on the beach of a private island owned by Richard Branson in the British Virgin Islands. It is the week after Thanksgiving, and Branson is playing host to a "galactic get-together" on Necker Island. Beer and wine are being consumed like so much rocket fuel. Sushi floats in on a boat--to the middle of the pool. (Swimsuits required!) There's a casino party one night, a tennis tourney in the pouring rain and golf off the top deck of Branson's Balinese-inspired house on the...

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