Astronauts from the space shuttle Atlantis are formally opening the new laboratory at the International Space Station Tuesday.

Crew members set up electrical and data lines linking the new Columbus laboratory to the station before European astronaut Leopold Eyharts briefly floated inside the module for the first time.

The crew also prepared for a second spacewalk to perform additional work on the lab Wednesday.

Also today, officials for the U.S. space agency NASA told the shuttle crewmembers they would not have to repair a loose thermal blanket near the shuttle's tail, saying the blanket does not pose a flight safety issue.

Astronauts conducted their first spacewalk of the current mission Monday to install the European research laboratory.

Astronauts Rex Walheim and Stanley Love anchored the $2 billion Columbus module with help from crewmates inside the space station.

The Columbus laboratory will be used for a wide variety of experiments, including research on the impact of space travel on humans.