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Posted: Saturday, September 10th, 2005 6:58 AM HST

Company wants to ship Big Island ash to NASA for Mars training

By Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) _ A Big Island company says it's asking the state for permission to quarry the volcanic ash from an area between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa to use for Mars training.

Geohazards Consultants International is seeking a state conservation district use permit to temporarily remove about three-thousand square yards of surface soil so it can excavate by hand the underlying ash to a depth of two to three feet.

Ron Terry of Geometrician Associates in Keaau says that when filtered, the volcanic ash is just like Martian dust. He says that makes it ideal for testing NASA's Mars Rover to see how it behaves, what kind of traction it gets, how the dust collects and how it interferes with optics and mechanics.

Terry says the material could also be used to give schoolchildren an idea of what the surface of Mars is like.

Geohazards Consultants is headed by retired Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientist Jack Lockwood.

(Copyright 2005 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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