Our Leadership

Chris Thayer, CEO

Chris Thayer

President,
CEO

Chris Thayer is the President and CEO and a co-founder at Motiv Space Systems – a Pasadena, CA company dedicated to developing the best motion control and robotic arm solutions for space flight. As President and CEO, Chris is responsible for the company’s overall direction and vision and makes sure the staff has what they need to execute that vision.

An Engineering Science graduate from the University of California, San Diego, Chris spent his early career working on mechanical systems for fighter jets and race cars. During that time, he designed and invented multiple technologies including a patented high efficiency energy absorption system for vehicle impacts.

In 2005, he started working at Alliance Space Systems (ASI) as the Director of Engineering. Among many space system developments, Chris oversaw the NASA/JPLs Mars Phoenix robotic arm’s technical execution, DARPA’s Front-end Robotics Enabling Near-term Demonstration robotic arm, and NASA/JPL’s Curiosity Robotic arm. After his time at ASI, Chris became the Vice President and General Manager at MDA.

In 2014, Chris and a few co-workers left MDA to start Motiv Space Systems. Motiv was born from a desire to create and bring innovative robotics and motion control solutions to enable the future of space exploration.  The founders felt that bringing multi-disciplinary experts in the field of robotics and motion control would enable a unique capability to develop new technology for a dynamically evolving space industry.

A lifelong Californian, Chris lives in Pasadena with his wife and four kids. When he isn’t busy at Motiv, he can usually be found fly fishing, riding motorcycles, snowboarding, or hiking.

Brett Lindenfeld, VP Operations headshot

Brett Lindenfeld

Vice President,
Operations

Brett Lindenfeld is the VP of Operations and a co-founder at Motiv Space Systems – a Pasadena, CA company dedicated to developing the best motion control and robotic arm solutions for space flight. At Motiv, Brett manages Motiv’s programs and has responsibility for Motiv’s staff and day-to-day operations.

While an aerospace engineering student at UCLA, Brett began working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) as an intern. After graduation, he spent five years at JPL working as a mechanical system and integration engineer on projects such as the Mars Pathfinder and the Cassini probe.

Upon leaving JPL, Brett became one of the first employees at the new startup Alliance Space Systems (ASI). Brett worked for ASI for 16 years – first as a mechanical system engineer, then as the director of engineering, and finally as Director of Programs when MDA acquired ASI.

In 2014, Brett and a few co-workers left MDA to start Motiv. Motiv was born from a desire to create and bring a unique capability of motion control to customers as a nimble driver of new technology products.  The founders felt a domain focused entity concentrated with multi-disciplinary experts would permit the company to be more agile and develop new technology at a more rapid pace and likely at a lower cost to address a dynamically evolving space industry.

While at ASI and later as part of MDA, Brett had the pleasure of working on all of the Mars rover robotic arm programs from the later 90’s through the early 2010’s and continued that streak at Motiv managing the Mars 2020 Perseverance Robotic Arm launched in 2020.

Brett lives in La Cañada, California, with his wife and three kids. When he isn’t busy at Motiv, he spends his free time with his family – traveling, skiing, hiking, visiting national parks, and exposing his kids to new places and experiences.

Tom McCarthy, VP, Business Development headshot

Tom McCarthy

Vice President,
Business Development

Tom McCarthy is a co-founder and the Vice President of Business Development at Motiv Space Systems – a Pasadena, CA company dedicated to developing the best motion control and robotic solutions for space applications. At Motiv, Tom pursues new opportunities, identifies technology avenues, and forges partnerships to offer novel, robust, and reliable customer solutions.

A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, Tom began his career at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Tom spent 11 years as an Electronics Engineer designing motion control systems for rovers and robotic systems for extreme environments.

For example, while working at JPL, he worked on projects like the MUSES-CN Asteroid Rover, a mission to land a rover on an asteroid, and acquire a sample from the asteroid, and return it to earth for analysis.  This was Tom’s first opportunity to collaborate with an international space agency, which would prove valuable to his current day activities. While developing novel technologies supporting a micro rover, Tom applied this experience to the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity.  Curiosity landed on Mars on August 6, 2012, to help determine if the planet Mars was ever able to support microbial life.

After JPL, Tom spent four years working at MDA Corporation as the director of Business Development. There he supported technology developments in satellite servicing and planetary robotics through his relationships with NASA.

In 2014, Tom was ready to engage the challenges of building a small business, and along with a few colleagues, they embarked on starting Motiv Space Systems. Motiv was born from a desire to create and bring a unique capability of motion control to customers as a nimble driver of new technology products.  The founders felt a  domain focused entity concentrated with multi-disciplinary experts would permit the company to be more agile and develop new technology at a more rapid pace and likely at a lower cost to address a dynamically evolving space industry.

Tom lives in South Pasadena with his wonderful wife and two daughters. He enjoys coaching his daughters in softball and has applied the lessons learned while coaching to his career. He strives to put both athletes and employees in positions to succeed and develop their skills.

Eddie Tunstel

Chief Technology Officer

Eddie Tunstel is the Chief Technology Officer at Motiv Space Systems – a Pasadena, CA company dedicated to developing the best motion control and robotic solutions for space applications.

After completing his undergrad and grad education at Howard University with BSME in Mechanical Engineering and Master of Engineering degrees, Eddie became Dr. Tunstel with a PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of New Mexico.  His dissertation?  Adaptive Hierarchy of Distributed Fuzzy Control: Application to Behavior Control of Rovers.

It’s no surprise then that Eddie spent 18 years at NASA JPL, where he worked as a Senior Robotics Engineer and Group Leader of JPL’s Advanced Robotic Controls Group.  At JPL, Eddie also took on the role of Flight Systems Engineer on the NASA Mars Exploration Rovers flight project, staying closely involved with the day-to-day operations of the Spirit and Opportunity rovers during their first 4 years on Mars.

After his time at JPL, Eddie moved to Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), serving as Space Robotics and Autonomous Control Lead. He later served as Senior Roboticist in APL’s Research & Exploratory Development Department and Intelligent Systems Center.

After a decade at APL, Eddie joined United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) as an Associate Director of Robotics, before it was merged with Raytheon to become Raytheon Technologies.

Beyond his career, Eddie is the author of over 170 journal, book chapter and conference publications, and is the editor or co-author of 5 books on robotics and autonomous control.

Sam Southard

Chief Financial Officer

Sam Southard is the CFO (chief financial officer) at Motiv Space Systems – a Pasadena, CA company dedicated to developing the best motion control and robotic arm solutions for space flight. As CFO, Sam is responsible for overseeing the financial and administrative activities of Motiv.

With a Bachelor of Science in Engineering and Applied Science from the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Southern California (USC), Sam began his career working for Caltech and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). He was there until 1996, when he decided to forgo engineering to help lead small to mid-sized companies.

From 1996 to 2000, Sam worked as CFO for Klune Industries, an aerospace contract manufacturing company. Between 2000 and 2004 he worked outside the aerospace industry, first as CFO of RW Lyall & Company, Inc. and then as COO / CFO of North American Pool Company. Then, from 2004 to 2010, Sam served first as CFO, and later as Deputy General Manager, for Alliance Space Systems.

Working both in and out of aerospace has allowed Sam to find his true success and passion in pursuing rapid growth in small and mid-sized companies. When Sam joined Motiv Space Systems in 2014, he was drawn to the opportunity to help grow a company from day one.

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