Students who are tired of the local scenery should head to the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum this weekend, where visitors will have the opportunity to explore the “Mysteries of Earth & Mars” for free.

During the museum’s Free Community Day on Saturday, admission to the museum is free from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event is the culmination of the weeklong JASON Project – an annual educational program featuring interdisciplinary, hands-on and multimedia approaches to specific scientific subjects. This year, the exhibition deals with “The Mysteries of Earth & Mars.”

The community day will feature a 2:30 p.m. talk by Dr. Tom Farr from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories in Pasadena. Farr’s lecture on the history and future of Martian exploration will be accompanied by historical footage of American space exploration and a computer-animated depiction of the 2004 remotely operated vehicle (ROV) landing on Mars.

Santa Barbara Maritime Museum Education Coordinator Stephanie Griesmer said she thinks the JASON Project is important because it gives the museum an opportunity to showcase new interactive and educational exhibits.

“A lot of maritime museums are static, and I think it was nice to have exhibition space not dedicated to just one thing.” Griesmer said.

Griesmer, a 2004 UCSB graduate, said up to 1500 school children in grades four through six, many of whom studied the JASON Project’s curriculum in school, will visit the museum this week as part of the project. She said the community day allows the general public to experience the JASON Project for themselves.

“[It’s] such a neat opportunity to see what’s going on in our world,” Griesmer said. “Saturday is a way to open it up to everyone.”

Students will also be able to learn how remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) work by playing with model ROVs during the Free Community Day. The models available at the museum include some made by 11th grade students at Cabrillo High School in Lompoc. Griesmer said the students followed the JASON curriculum for an entire quarter and then made model ROVs to do an underwater obstacle course.

“That’s what the JASON Project is about,” Griesmer said. “Looking beyond the project.”

Griesmer said she thinks UCSB students should attend the event because it is a free opportunity for students to do something different and learn about space exploration.

The community day is also a good opportunity for students to see what the museum does, Griesmer said. The museum currently has five interns in addition to their nine staff members, and welcomes student participation at the museum.

“Any outside help we get is just invaluable” Griesmer said. “Because we are so small we can create an internship for just about anything you want.”

JASON Project founder Dr. Robert Ballard, an oceanographer and 1965 graduate of UCSB, is famous for his discovery of the Titanic wreck, according to The Maritime Museum has participated in the JASON Project, which is named after the ROV used in the Titanic exploration, for nine years, Griesmer said.

“You can participate in the JASON Project every year and learn something new every year” Griesmer said.

The main sponsors of the community day include the National Park Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and UCSB.

“We all work together as partners,” Griesmer said.

According to the Maritime Museum website,, the museum offers a range of exhibits about Santa Barbara’s maritime history and survival at sea. The museum is also currently hosting an exhibit about Spanish treasure ships called “Treasures of the Manila Galleons,” which features the remains of a real 16th-century galleon, as well as an interactive game dealing with the trade routes taken by galleons.