A University of Louisiana at Lafayette professor is conducting research to keep astronauts healthy.

Dr. Ray Boudreaux's research is focused on one of the hazards of extended space missions: bone loss. Boudreaux says the bone mass of astronauts is reduced by 1 to 2 percent each month they are in space.

"A trip to Mars could be three years," Boudreaux explained. "So you can imagine 36 months. One to 2 percent per month is extraordinary bone loss."

We can possibly, maybe even get astronauts to Mars, and get them there safely with strong bones.

Boudreaux's research revealed astronauts bone-loss may be reduced with resistance exercise using pneumatic-powered equipment and by taking a bone-loss treatment drug.  Boudreaux says his research has earned him the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research's Young Investigator Award.

"They've recognized that the work I'm doing is important and that we can possibly, maybe even get astronauts to Mars, and get them there safely with strong bones," Boudreaux said.

He says the ultimate goal of his research is to get astronauts to Mars healthy. Boudreaux says his research could also be helpful to help people who are bedridden for several months at a time or patients suffering from spinal chord injuries.

"So the work that we do not only protects the select few astronauts we have, but they have the potential to protect a large group of people here on Earth," Boudreaux said.