Carmel Valley resident celebrates contribution to recent Mars flight

Raja Gosula and his wife Vanessa celebrated the Ingenuity flight on Mars.

At Qualcomm, Carmel Valley resident Raja Gosula worked on chips for cell phones.

“When I left the company, I just didn’t think of it anymore,” said Gosula, who was born in India, grew up in Brazil and has been in San Diego for more than 20 years.

He now works for Cisco. But after NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter made it to Mars, he started getting texts from his former Qualcomm colleagues.

They said, “‘Hey, did you know our chip is on Mars?’ “I’m like really? Why? How?” Gosula said.

Gosula said he led 10 engineers about eight years ago as the digital design lead on the chip that ended up contributing to the Mars flight.

After he left, the chip became part of the Ingenuity, which became the first ever autonomous aircraft to make a powered, controlled flight on another planet on April 19. According to NASA, the flight was confirmed successful at 3:46 a.m. local time. Gosula said he “actually got teary eyed watching” a recording of the flight.

Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science, said in a news release that the Mars flight marked another “iconic” moment in aviation history.

“Now, 117 years after the Wright brothers succeeded in making the first flight on our planet, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter has succeeded in performing this amazing feat on another world,” Zurbuchen said.

Acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyka said in a statement that the flight is part of a “long and storied tradition of NASA projects achieving a space exploration goal once thought impossible.”

Gosula and his wife celebrated his contribution to the Mars flight, even though he never had any out-of-this-world aspirations. His interest was always in consumer products.

“It’s a coincidence that I worked for a cell phone company that decided to make a drone later after I left,” he said.

But he still marvels that a chip he developed is carrying out its function on another planet.

“I can’t even describe it,” Gosula said. “It’s so cool. Without even planning or participating in the space program at all, you get to brag about this.”

He added in a celebratory Facebook post that his achievement in designing the chip “goes to show you that when you design products with robustness, care, thorough modeling/testing and follow good processes, you get a result you can be proud of, and you never know where it can end up. In this case, unexpectedly on Mars!”