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Excerpts from a December 1, 1996 article in the San Francisco Chronicle called NASA nervous about Mars launch.

“One near-miss, one miss, and now it’s our turn,” said Curtis Cleven, launch operations manager for Mars Pathfinder, which holds the first-ever Martian rover. ... The near-miss was the failure of a solar wing to properly extend on NASA’s Global Surveyor, launched Nov. 7 and now en route to the Red Planet. Engineers insist they can work around the problem. The complete miss was the Russian probe, which failed shortly after liftoff and feel from orbit two weeks ago, brining worries that plutonium on board might contaminate Earth upon re-entry. ... Russian space official still aren’t sure - or aren’t saying - why the spacecraft never made it out of orbit and plunged through the atmosphere shortly after its Nov 16 launch.

Excerpts from a December 1, 1996 article in the San Francisco Chronicle called NASA scraps astronauts’ spacewalk as too risky.

NASA decided Saturday is wasn’t worth the risk to let astronauts try to pry open a jammed space shuttle hatch, and canceled all spacewalks for Columbia’s mission. Mission control was concerned that astronauts Tamara Jernigan and Thomas Jones might not have been able to close the hatch with a tight seal after their spacewalk if they forced it open. Without a decent seal, the chamber between the crew cabin and the open cargo bay could not be repressurized, and the space-walkers would be stuck outside the cabin with a dwindling supply of oxygen. ...

Engineers are perplexed as to why the handle on the hatch would not swing into the unlock position. On Friday, they suspected the door might be out of alignment and that the astronauts might be able to shove it back in place. But the situation could not be duplicated with equipment on the ground. The latest best guess: some sort of jam in the gear mechanism to which the handle is attached. That would be unfixable in orbit. Besides wanting to avoid further damage, NASA opted against brute force so engineers could inspect the jammed hatch, as is, after the flight.