Vowing to boldly go where no gourmet coffee chain has ever gone before, Starbucks Inc. announced today that it would build its first coffee franchise on the moon by the year 2020.

While the coffee giant raised eyebrows in the restaurant and aerospace industries with its startling announcement, it stunned Wall Street with its plan to expand to over 11,000 lunar coffeehouses by 2021.

At a press conference at the company’s Seattle headquarters, Starbucks spokesperson Carol Foyler said that NASA’s decision to build a manned base on the lunar surface by the year 2020 motivated Starbucks’ decision to expand moonward.

“Those astronauts are going to be working long and hard to build that moon base and we’re betting they’re going to want a latte or two,” Ms. Foyler says. “Fortunately for them, there’ll be a Starbucks on the edge of every crater.”

But Starbucks’ decision to expand to 11,000 stores by 2021 inspired skepticism among restaurant industry experts, who wondered if there was a large enough market for gourmet coffee on the moon to justify such accelerated growth.

“The biggest problem is that there is no life on the moon,” said Nick Klujian, an analyst at Morgan Stanley. “They’d be much better off on Mars.”

In response to Mr. Klujian’s comment, Starbucks responded: “Did we say the moon? We meant Mars. Sorry, we got the order wrong.”

Elsewhere, spokespersons for Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn said that the couple has broken up but remain good friends, according to a story published today in Like I Care magazine.

(c) 2006, Creators Syndicate Inc.

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