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I am trying to recall a short story from around 40 or so years ago. It involves two astronauts walking on the surface of the Moon and they are effectively blinded when their helmets become covered in moondust.

If I recall, they try to rub it off but some sort of static electrical effect makes them worse. I have a horrible feeling it's a very well known Asimov or Clarke story but for the life of me I can't find it in any of my collection.

Any clues please? Thank you!

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    I am recaling another story Maybe by Clark or Asimov. About a hover craft like vessel carrying tourist, zipping around in the moon dust through the canyons of the moon. There is an accident (I think a bubble of gas popped below the vessel, and it got sucked down and buried beneath the dust. The novel was trying to rescue them before they ran out of Oxygen. I could have sworn they also had to deal with dust sticking to their face shields of their helmets. (The title was some thing like Moon Dust, or Dust Fall, or Moon Fall.)
    – NJohnny
    Commented Jul 22, 2023 at 1:48
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    @NJohnny, that's "A Fall Of Moondust" by Clarke. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Fall_of_Moondust
    – Pete
    Commented Jul 22, 2023 at 3:35
  • @Pete Yep that was it. But reviewing the wiki link it does not appear they had a dust on the face shield problem. So I was probably mis-remembering that problem.
    – NJohnny
    Commented Jul 23, 2023 at 0:59

1 Answer 1

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This is "Dust Rag" by Hal Clement; it's in Asimov's anthology Where Do We Go From Here, among other places.

This review mentions the static electricity and dust

Life & death situation happens when they instinctively wipe their transparent space suit plastic in front of their eyes, as the vision begins getting unexpectedly blurred by haze. Only, the wiping with space suit sleeve seems to stick the dust to surface in front of their eyes rather than remove it! They are quickly blinded. And no hope of rescue: "there isn't enough fuel on the Moon to get a rescue tractor out here, even if anyone knew we were in trouble & could make the trip in time."


But why cannot they wipe their faceplates? "Whenever two materials rub against each other, electrons come loose... Unless the materials are of identical electronic makeup, which for practical purposes means unless they are the same substance, one of them will hang onto the electrons a little - or a lot - better than the other, so one will have a negative net charge & the other a positive one. It's our misfortune that the difference between the plastic in our faceplates & that in the rest of the suits is the wrong way; when we rubbed the two, the faceplates picked up a charge opposite to that of the surrounding dust - probably negative, since I suppose the dust is positive & a transparent material should have a good grip on its electrons."

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  • What can I do to improve this answer (I got a downvote for it)?
    – Andrew
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 21:22
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    You got my +1, because it's the right answer. Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 21:27
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    And I thank you for it! Recognized this one immediately, since I loved the Asimov anthology it's in (and I like Clement's works in general)
    – Andrew
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 21:29
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    Yeah, I was coming here to post the same answer. Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 21:30
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    FYI: That physical effect has a name. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triboelectric_effect Commented Jul 22, 2023 at 11:56

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