Astronauts' bones and muscles can severely decay in space — and this company aims to stop it

Space travel takes a serious toll on the human body.

The zero gravity that astronauts experience on a daily basis can cause their bones and muscles to severely decay — but one company is working on technology to help space travelers stay in shape during missions.

The Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC), a not-for-profit research institute of the Florida University System, is creating pioneering robotics technology that is transforming human mobility.

Based in Pensacola, Fla., the organization has developed exoskeletons, fast running-legged robots and humanoid avatars designed to ease the physical hardships that astronauts — and even disabled Earth-dwellers — face.

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Astronaut Scott Kelly returns to Earth
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Astronaut Scott Kelly returns to Earth
Members of NASA support team help International Space Station (ISS) crew member Scott Kelly of the U.S. to get off a helicopter on arrival from the landing site at the airport of the town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on March 2, 2016. US astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko returned to Earth on March 2 after spending almost a year in space in a ground-breaking experiment foreshadowing a potential manned mission to Mars. AFP PHOTO / POOL / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP / POOL / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)
Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly of NASA rests in a chair outside of the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft just minutes after he and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov of Roscosmos landed in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Wednesday, March 2, 2016 (Kazakh time). Kelly and Kornienko completed an International Space Station record year-long mission to collect valuable data on the effect of long duration weightlessness on the human body that will be used to formulate a human mission to Mars. Volkov returned after spending six months on the station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
International Space Station (ISS) crew member Scott Kelly of the U.S. shows a victory sign after landing near the town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on March 2, 2016. US astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko returned to Earth on March 2 after spending almost a year in space in a ground-breaking experiment foreshadowing a potential manned mission to Mars. AFP PHOTO / POOL / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP / POOL / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)
Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko, left, Sergey Volkov of Roscosmos, center, and Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly of NASA, rest in chairs outside of the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft just minutes after they landed in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Wednesday, March 2, 2016 (Kazakh time). Kelly and Kornienko completed an International Space Station record year-long mission to collect valuable data on the effect of long duration weightlessness on the human body that will be used to formulate a human mission to Mars. Volkov returned after spending six months on the station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko of Roscosmos is carried into a medical tent after he and Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly of NASA and Russian cosmonaut Sergey Volkov landed in their Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Wednesday, March 2, 2016 (Kazakh time). Kelly and Kornienko completed an International Space Station record year-long mission to collect valuable data on the effect of long duration weightlessness on the human body that will be used to formulate a human mission to Mars. Volkov returned after spending six months on the station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly of NASA rests in a chair outside of the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft just minutes after he and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov of Roscosmos landed in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Wednesday, March 2, 2016 (Kazakh time). Kelly and Kornienko completed an International Space Station record year-long mission to collect valuable data on the effect of long duration weightlessness on the human body that will be used to formulate a human mission to Mars. Volkov returned after spending six months on the station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Russian cosmonaut Sergey Volkov of Roscosmos is carried into a medical tent after he and Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly of NASA and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko landed in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Wednesday, March 2, 2016 (Kazakh time). Kelly and Kornienko completed an International Space Station record year-long mission to collect valuable data on the effect of long duration weightlessness on the human body that will be used to formulate a human mission to Mars. Volkov returned after spending six months on the station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
International Space Station (ISS) crew member Scott Kelly of the U.S. reacts after landing near the town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on March 2, 2016. US astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko returned to Earth on March 2 after spending almost a year in space in a ground-breaking experiment foreshadowing a potential manned mission to Mars. AFP PHOTO / POOL / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP / POOL / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)
Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko of Roscosmos rests in a chair outside of the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft just minutes after he and Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly of NASA and Russian cosmonaut Sergey Volkov landed in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Wednesday, March 2, 2016 (Kazakh time). Kelly and Kornienko completed an International Space Station record year-long mission to collect valuable data on the effect of long duration weightlessness on the human body that will be used to formulate a human mission to Mars. Volkov returned after spending six months on the station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
A search and rescue team works at the site of landing of the Soyuz TMA-18M space capsule near the town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on March 2, 2016. US astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko returned to Earth on March 2 after spending almost a year in space in a ground-breaking experiment foreshadowing a potential manned mission to Mars. AFP PHOTO / POOL / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP / POOL / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)
Russias Soyuz TMA-18M space capsule carrying the International Space Station (ISS) crew of US astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Sergei Volkov lands in a remote area outside the town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on March 2, 2016. US astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko returned to Earth on March 2 after spending almost a year in space in a ground-breaking experiment foreshadowing a potential manned mission to Mars. AFP PHOTO / POOL / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP / POOL / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)
The Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly of NASA and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov of Roscosmos near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Wednesday, March 2, 2016 (Kazakh time). Kelly and Kornienko completed an International Space Station record year-long mission to collect valuable data on the effect of long duration weightlessness on the human body that will be used to formulate a human mission to Mars. Volkov returned after spending six months on the station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
The Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly of NASA and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov of Roscosmos near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Wednesday, March 2, 2016 (Kazakh time). Kelly and Kornienko completed an International Space Station record year-long mission to collect valuable data on the effect of long duration weightlessness on the human body that will be used to formulate a human mission to Mars. Volkov returned after spending six months on the station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly hugs his crewmates goodbye on the International Space Station on March 1, 2016. Photo credit: NASA
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly with his crewmates on the International Space Station on March 1, 2016. Photo credit: NASA
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly hugs his crewmates goodbye on the International Space Station on March 1, 2016. Photo credit: NASA
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly hugs his crewmates goodbye on the International Space Station on March 1, 2016. Photo credit: NASA
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly hugs his crewmates goodbye on the International Space Station on March 1, 2016. Photo credit: NASA
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One such piece of equipment designed by IHMC is called the "grasshopper," a fitness device specifically designed to work in outer space. 

Whereas traditional weights are rendered useless in a zero-gravity environment, the grasshopper is powered by motors, which help create the resistance necessary to provide muscle- and bone-density strengthening.

The machine is computer controlled and the weight load can be adjusted to accommodate multiple different exercises, such as squats and bicep curls.

For more on The Institute for Human and Machine Cognition and its inventions, check out the above episode of Space Pirates

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