Marta R. Metelko
November 18, 2003
Talk Is Action For NASA's Space Flight Deputy
Lynn Cline is the first to tell you she's all talk. But that's no shortcoming for NASA's Deputy Associate Administrator for the Office of Space Flight in Washington. For Cline, talk is action. After all, in the mid-1990s, she led NASA's effort to organize the coalition of nations that would build and fly the International Space Station.
Cline pinpoints her professional communication skills as a primary factor in her 28 successful years at NASA. Born in Montclair, N.J., Cline grew up in nearby Tom's River. Her first love was language. While pursuing a degree in French from East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., she was confident her fluency would lead to a career as an interpreter or perhaps as a professor of French literature.
But another opportunity presented itself in September 1975, a cooperative education internship with NASA's international affairs office in Washington. "I wasn't sure what I might be getting myself into," Cline recalled. "But NASA seemed like an interesting opportunity," she said.
Timing was perfect. NASA and the then Soviet space agency had just conducted the Apollo-Soyuz test mission, the first manned space mission conducted jointly by two nations. Cline helped compile flight data and planned future partnerships. "Everyone was so committed, so enthusiastic about the work," she said. "It was contagious. I came in on a three-month assignment and just never left," she said.
She reflects on her early career goals and offers some advice to young people pondering future careers. "It struck me to realize you don't have to be a scientist or an engineer to work for NASA," Cline said. "Certainly, the majority of NASA employees are technicians, scientists and engineers, but you can work in a host of different fields and still contribute to the space program. Your options in the work world are endless, if you take the time to investigate every opportunity as a potential for success," she said.
Cline tackled a number of foreign-relations positions, and she became NASA's deputy director of international relations in 1990. Cline maintained NASA's relations with the European Space Agency, Germany, Netherlands, Scandinavia, India, Russia and China. She often found herself arguing space policy with roomfuls of officials, many of whom spoke little or none of each other's language.
| "Whenever the Station is flying overhead, I go out on my deck to catch that bright streak in the sky ... and I think, you know, I had something to do with that!" |
| --Lynn Cline, NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for the Office of Space Flight|
In 1993, newly appointed as director of space flight for NASA's Office of External Relations, Cline took on the task of launching a permanent, orbiting science facility in space. Cline traveled monthly to partner nations to hammer out the new contracts, relying on her communication skills, if not fluency in all partners' native tongues, to win approval. The art of negotiation isn't just words, she points out, but also meaning and context.
Her efforts paid off in 1998, when all the partners, including the Russian delegation, traveled to the United States to sign agreements to commence work on the Space Station.
Cline plays a key role in making NASA policies and allocating resources to support the whole spectrum of American space flight, from the Space Shuttle and Space Station to space-based communications and Earth science missions. She occasionally misses her international role, but considering the Office of Space Flight manages approximately 40 percent of NASA's budget and oversees key technology development at four agency field centers; she's busier than ever.
And there's always an opportunity to stop and reflect on a job well done. "Whenever the Station is flying overhead, I go out on my deck to catch that bright streak in the sky," she said. "And I think, you know, I had something to do with that!" Cline concluded.
For more information about the International Space Station, on the Internet visit: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/station
Media organizations interested in interviewing Cline should contact Allard Beutel, NASA Public Affairs, at: 202/358-4769.
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