After 30 years and 135 missions to the stars, July 21, 2011 marked the last mission of the NASA Space Shuttle Program — bringing to close a seminal step in modern man’s real-live quest to journey into the cosmos.

In the dark matter realm of black culture, we have many of our own cosmic heroes, real and imagined: The Dogon, The Egyptians, Sun Ra, George Clinton & P-Funk, Lt. Uhura, Lando Calrissian, Commander Sisko, Bootsy, Jimi, Outkast’s ATLiens, Neil deGrasse Tyson — these are just a few notable star folk of our special Galaxy.

MONDO BLACK took a trip to Philly to see another notable star-man; Derrick Pitts, Chief Astronomer and Planetarium Programs Director of the Franklin Institute Science Museum. Derrick – also a 2011 NASA Solar System Ambassador, and keeper of the Tuskegee Airmen legacy, as President of their Greater Philadelphia Chapter — shared his love of science and astronomy and described his efforts on bringing these sciences to the community — along with insightful musings on black holes/UFOs and the future of space exploration.

About his own inspirations and what led him to pursue astronomy, Pitts has had this to say: “As a kid, I didn’t know any scientists. Oh sure, I’d read about all kinds of scientists, so while it didn’t immediately come to mind as a typical career choice for a young black kid in an inner-city neighborhood, I also knew it wasn’t completely ridiculous either. There was just no guidance for a kid with such aspirations…but astronomy intrigued me. It was exotic, complicated and multi-faceted. It was also very exciting because for the first 17 years of my life, the greatest scientific endeavor ever, putting people on the Moon, hit a new milestone every year. The work of astronomers, who sought to understand the nature of the expansion of the universe… was inspirational.”

With his own mission statement – “Eat. Breathe. Do Science. Sleep later!” – Derrick’s passion is to remind us that space is no stranger to us. If our collective ancestors built the Pyramids, charted the heavens without contemporary tools, and stocked the library at Alexandria with knowledge of the world, then space is certainly within our grasp…because, as we’re told in the ancient teachings of Hermeticism: “as above, so below…” and within the capabilities of our own minds, infinite possibilities exist…

Astronomer Derrick Pitts and Producer Gabriel Tolliver

Sadly, while it may see that the value of the science(s) are somewhat lost on our communities, the work and research of Derrick Pitts – including his “guerilla astronomy” project, setting up telescopes on the streets of urban Philadelphia and showing inner-city residents what can be seen in their own night skies — serves as a reminder that we are capable of doing and achieving all things. As someone once said; “What you believe, you can achieve…” because our minds are vast, limitless and full of possibilities — just like space. So we invite you to take a trip with MONDO BLACK into our very own special cosmic investigation: Black Holes: Astronomer Derrick Pitts: Starman.