The powdery lunar soil was great for making footprints, but was a problem for astronauts like Charlie Duke, shown here during the Apollo 16 mission in 1972. It got in their eyes and throats, and clung stubbornly to every surface.ANOTHER LUNAR DAWN, and the powdery dust on the moon’s surface begins to stir. Without a breath of wind, the finest motes swirl across the ancient landscape as electrostatically charged dust grains repel one another. Larger grains join the dance in a line that stretches more than 3,000 miles from the lunar north pole to the south pole, along the edge of advancing daylight.

Within hours the dance has become frenzied and vertical, with microscopic grains hurtling miles overhead, the tiniest ones flying the farthest, until the weak lunar gravity stops their rise and pulls them back to the dusty surface. Instead of resting there, many jump up to begin the dance anew, surrounding the moon with a veritable atmosphere of dust—glassy, abrasive, toxic grit that could spell “No Trespassing” to future explorers.

So begins a fascinating 2006 article by Trudy Bell on the Air & Space Magazine website.

Stronger Than Dirt