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World's largest zeppelin dedicated at NASA facility

To be called the Eureka, the 246-feet long zeppelin is the pride and joy of a company called Airship Ventures, which will offer the public rides, as well as help NASA do scientific research.

The zeppelin, Eureka, sits on the tarmac at Moffett Field in Mountain View, Calif. The airship was dedicated Friday at an event celebrating the 75h anniversary of Moffett Field. Daniel Terdiman/CNET News

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif.--NASA celebrated the 75th anniversary of this iconic airfield and research center on Friday by dedicating a brand-new zeppelin from a private company called Airship Ventures.

The zeppelin NT ("new technology"), which is one of just three currently functioning zeppelins that exist in the world, and the biggest, at 246 feet, was named "Eureka," a name that relates to the fact that the ship is based in California, as well as the fact that it is "rooted in scientific principles," said Brian Bell, a co-founder of Airship Ventures, the ship's owner, minutes before he revealed the new name.

At an event here to celebrate the two milestones, Alexandra Bell, also a co-founder of Airship Ventures, spoke of the experience of getting the zeppelin program off the ground. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), as well as Pete Worden, director of the NASA Ames Research Center, attended the event.

Airship Ventures is the first company in the United States to offer public access to zeppelins. And the company will be carrying paying passengers around the Bay Area, as well as helping NASA carry out scientific research.

The co-founders of Airship Ventures pull back the cover on the name of their brand-new zeppelin, the largest in the world, at the event Friday. The zeppelin is called the Eureka. Daniel Terdiman/CNET News

Brian Bell explained that Airship Ventures had a naming contest and received more than 1,500 submissions, five of which turned out to be "Eureka," a name that those involved in the company had already been thinking about anyway.

But Alexandra Bell said that the Eureka may not end up being Airship Ventures' only zeppelin (See video below of the first flight of the Eureka after its dedication).

"We decided we just have to get a couple more," she said, "so we can name them with some of the other wonderful names" we got.

While the Eureka is the largest currently functioning zeppelin, the airships from the golden age of zeppelins were much, much larger. The Hindenburg and the Graf Zeppelin were about 800 feet long, and the Macon, which was based at Moffat for a couple of years in the 1930s, was 785 feet long.