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2015 was a great year for space exploration

In this handout provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the dwarf planet Pluto.

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2015 was a great year for space

NASA announced this week that it will be canceling the planned March 2016 launch of the InSight mission to Mars, which is designed to study the Red Planet's geology and seismic activity.

The cancellation was necessary, given concerns over the functionality of on-board instruments crucial to the mission, and there is hope the craft will be able to launch again in just over two years if the problems can be corrected. Nevertheless, it was a disappointing day for fans of planetary science, and NASA's space programs, and it made it a bit too easy to forget that 2015 was a huge year for space exploration, planetary science and astronomy.

Here are just some of the discoveries and developments brought by space agencies, researchers and the burgeoning commercial space industry this year.

By CNBC's Robert Ferris
Published 24 December 2015

Source: NASA