Reaching the moon with sugar cubes is an interesting thought experiment that allows us to visualize just how far away the moon really is. While actually building a sugar cube tower 238,855 miles high is clearly impractical, thinking through the logistics provides some fascinating insights into lunar distances, the size of sugar cubes, and the staggering number needed to span the gap.

## How far away is the moon?

The first key piece of information needed is the distance between the Earth and the moon. On average, the moon is approximately 238,855 miles (384,400 km) from Earth. This distance can vary somewhat as the moon follows its elliptical orbit, but 238,855 miles is roughly the average. So in order to stack sugar cubes from the Earth to the moon, we need to think about covering a distance of roughly a quarter of a million miles.

## How big is a sugar cube?

The next important detail is the size of a standard sugar cube. Sugar cubes meant for coffee or tea are typically around 1 cm x 1 cm x 1 cm, or 1 cubic centimeter. There are some larger and smaller sugar cubes available, but this 1 cm x 1 cm x 1 cm size is the most common. At this standard size, each individual sugar cube has a volume of 1 cubic centimeter (or 1 cc).

## How many sugar cubes would it take?

We can now start estimating the number of 1 cm x 1 cm x 1 cm sugar cubes it would take to span the 238,855 mile distance between the Earth and moon. To make the math simpler, let’s convert everything to centimeters:

- Distance to the moon = 238,855 miles x 1.609344 km/mile x 100,000 cm/km =
**38,439,645,000 cm** - Height of each sugar cube = 1 cm

Dividing the total distance in centimeters by the height of each cube gives us:

**38,439,645,000 cm / 1 cm per cube = 38,439,645,000 cubes**

So with 1 cm sugar cubes stacked directly on top of each other, it would take a staggering **38.4 billion** of them to reach all the way to the moon from the Earth!

## How much would 38 billion sugar cubes weigh?

That’s clearly a huge number of sugar cubes. So how much would 38.4 billion cubes actually weigh? Let’s assume each is made of pure granulated white sugar with a density of about 1.59 g/cm^{3}. This means each 1 cm x 1 cm x 1 cm sugar cube would weigh approximately 1.59 g. Multiplied by 38.4 billion cubes, the total weight would be:

**38,400,000,000 cubes x 1.59 g/cube = ~61 billion kg**

That’s 61 billion kilograms of sugar, or roughly **61 million metric tons**. For perspective, that’s over **100 times** the weight of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt!

## How much would it cost?

The weight helps give an idea of just how huge a pile of 38 billion sugar cubes would be. But how much would it cost to actually buy this many cubes? Let’s assume you can buy a bag of standard sugar cubes at the grocery store for $2, with each bag containing around 100 cubes. In that case:

- 38.4 billion cubes needed
- 100 cubes per $2 bag

So to buy 38.4 billion cubes at a rate of 100 cubes per $2 would cost:

**38,400,000,000 cubes / 100 cubes per bag x $2 per bag = $768,000,000**

At $2 for 100 cubes, 38.4 billion cubes would cost a whopping **$768 million**! And that’s assuming you could even find suppliers willing to sell you billions of sugar cubes in the first place.

## How long would it take to stack them?

The sheer size and weight of 38 billion stacked sugar cubes makes it clear this isn’t a realistic project. But let’s pretend it was attempted – how long would it take? Let’s assume a team of 100 people doing the stacking, and that each person can stack 5 cubes per second. In that case:

- 38,400,000,000 cubes total
- 100 people stacking
- 5 cubes per person per second

Each person could stack 5 cubes x 60 seconds x 60 minutes x 8 hours = 14,400 cubes per day. With 100 people, the team could stack 1,440,000 cubes per day. So dividing the 38.4 billion cubes needed by 1.44 million cubes per day gives:

**38,400,000,000 cubes / 1,440,000 cubes per day = ~26,700 days**

Even with 100 people stacking nearly 1.5 million cubes per day, it would take over **73 years** to stack enough cubes to reach the moon! And that’s not even accounting for transport, bathroom breaks, sleep, and other practical constraints.

## What if we used bigger sugar cubes?

38.4 billion 1 cm cubes is clearly an impractically huge number. But what if we used bigger sugar cubes? Let’s see how the numbers change if we use larger 5 cm x 5 cm x 5 cm sugar cubes instead:

- Distance to moon = 238,855 miles x 1.609344 km/mile x 100,000 cm/km = 38,439,645,000 cm
- Height of each cube = 5 cm

Dividing the total distance by the new cube height gives:

**38,439,645,000 cm / 5 cm per cube = 7,687,929,000 cubes**

So with 5 cm sugar cubes, the number needed drops to 7.7 billion – much less than 38.4 billion! The weight would also be lower:

**7,687,929,000 cubes x (5 cm) ^{3} x 1.59 g/cm^{3} = ~296 million kg**

This is about 305 million kg, or 305,000 metric tons – still huge, but much less than 61 million tons. And at a stacking rate of 5 cubes/second per person, 100 people could build to the moon in just over 4 years with these larger cubes.

## What about even bigger cubes?

We can continue exploring this logical progression. With 10 cm sugar cubes, the math would be:

- 38,439,645,000 cm / 10 cm per cube = 3,843,964,500 cubes
- 3,843,964,500 cubes x (10 cm)
^{3}x 1.59 g/cm^{3}= ~614 million kg

At this size, only 3.8 billion cubes and 614 million kg of sugar would be needed. The stacking time drops to around 2 years. By the time we reach 20 cm or 50 cm sugar cubes, the numbers become much more reasonable – though still incredibly impractical in reality.

## Conclusion

While actually stacking enough sugar cubes to reach the moon is clearly impossible with today’s technology, exploring the thought experiment provides some interesting insights:

- The moon is incredibly far away – nearly 239,000 miles away on average.
- With 1 cm sugar cubes, it would take over 38 billion stacked on top of each other to span the distance.
- The cost, weight, and time involved make this utterly impractical.
- Larger sugar cubes help reduce the numbers, but even 50 cm cubes would be a massive undertaking.
- The thought experiment helps visualize just how far away the moon really is.

The exercise shows just how large astronomical distances are compared to everyday objects like sugar cubes. While we may take the immense distance to the moon for granted, thinking through the logistics of stacking sugar cubes gives a whole new appreciation of just how far away it is up in the sky.