When I'm asked about the relevance to Black people of what I do, I take that as an affront. It presupposes that Black people have never been involved in exploring the heavens, but this is not so. Ancient African empires - Mali, Songhai, Egypt - had scientists, astronomers. The fact is that space and its resources belong to all of us, not to any one group.
It must be a very dour and pessimistic astronomer indeed who seriously doubts that there must be countless numbers of intelligent civilizations scattered throughout the universe on other planets which are orbiting around other stars. An attitude which asserts that man is the only intelligent life form in the universe is intolerably arrogant today ... anyone who holds such an opinion today is, fortunately for those who like to see some progress in human conceptions, something of an intellectual freak equivalent to a believer in the Flat Earth Theory.
In the popular mind, if Hoyle is remembered it is as the prime mover of the discredited Steady State theory of the universe. "Everybody knows" that the rival Big Bang theory won the battle of the cosmologies, but few (not even astronomers) appreciate that the mathematical formalism of the now-favoured version of Big Bang, called inflation, is identical to Hoyle's version of the Steady State model.
I cannot agree with any astronomer who insists that all of these things are mirages, planets, clouds, or illusions. The majority of the people are articulate enough to tell their stories and sincere enough to make depositions before notaries public. Even scientists concede that these folk saw something.
Whether you are an astronomer or a life scientist, geophysicist, or a pilot, you've got to be there because you believe you are good in your field, and you can contribute, not because you are going to get a lot of fame or whatever when you get back.
Just as the spectroscope opened up a new astronomy by enabling the astronomer to determine some of the constituents of which distant stars are composed, so the seismograph, recording the unfelt motion of distant earthquakes, enables us to see into the earth and determine its nature with as great a certainty, up to a certain point, as if we could drive a tunnel through it and take samples of the matter passed through.