JPL to help Sci-Fi launch

NASA lab will consult on TNT's 'Crusade' series

This year, the scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory will reach for the stars — on Hollywood Boulevard.

JPL has signed on to provide scientific and technical consulting services to TNT/Babylonian Prods.’ sci-fi series “Crusade,” set for a January debut. The hourlong space opera grows out of the sci-fier “Babylon 5,” which it will eventually replace.

“Crusade” creator and exec producer J. Michael Straczynski said the show’s writing and visual effects production staff will use JPL’s input to design realistic alien planets, life forms and environments.

“What we learned doing ‘Babylon 5’ is that it takes no more effort or thought to get it right than to get it wrong,” Straczynski said. “If you do the science right, it actually films more interestingly.”

The episodes in “Crusade” will follow the adventures of the 1-1/2-mile-long spaceship Excalibur, whose crew has been sent to hunt the universe in search of a cure for a fast-mutating plague that threatens to wipe out human life. The pathogen had been unleashed by an unfriendly alien race introduced in “Babylon 5.”

Series regulars cast so far include stars Gary Cole, Carrie Dobro, Peter Woodward, David Allan Brooks, Daniel Dae Kim and Marjean Holden.

Netter Digital Entertainment is creating the visual effects for “Crusade,” as it has for “Babylon 5.”

JPL, a NASA-funded division of the Cal Tech, is best known for its research and development into the robotics and space flight. The Pasadena-based lab has previously contracted out its expertise, but is stepping up its consulting services through its new technology-affiliates program. The program has already resulted in a joint effort with toy giant Mattel to design a toy version of the JPL-designed Mars rover.

“Our secret agenda is to try to get across the idea to the public that the whole process of doing science and engineering is enormously interesting,” said Joan Horvath, JPL’s business alliance manager. JPL will hold a workshop Oct. 2 at its Pasadena facilities to forge relationships within the entertainment community. For info, call (818) 354-9511.

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