Valve co-founder Gabe Newell is sending a titanium garden gnome into space, a move that may sound like the unchecked vanity of a software billionaire, but is actually being done for scientific and charitable purposes.
The obvious question you may be asking yourself is “Why is Gabe Newell sending a titanium garden gnome into space?” Well, because in Half-Life 2: Episode Two, one of the game’s achievements involved lugging a garden gnome (named Gnome Chompski) through the entire game and depositing it inside of a rocket.
But the real reason Newell and company are sending Gnome Chompski into space is because the Valve co-founder is currently kicking it in New Zealand, where the rocket scientists at Rocket Lab are about to launch a payload of satellites. Mr. Chompski will be hitching a ride on Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle, and Newell has promised to donate money to charity as part of the launch: one dollar for every person who watches a stream of the launch, which could happen as early as Nov. 15.
According to a news release from Valve, that money will go to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at Starship, a children’s hospital in Auckland, New Zealand. Contributing to the cause is Weta Workshop, which modeled and 3D-printed the space-bound Gnome Chompski in titanium for the project. Mr. Chompski will stand 150 mm tall (about 6 inches), and will burn up upon reentry into Earth’s atmosphere during the Electron’s de-orbiting process.
The mission “serves as an homage to the innovation and creativity of gamers worldwide,” Rocket Lab said, and in more practical terms, “aims to test and qualify a novel 3D printing technique that could be employed for future spacecraft components.”
Rocket Lab plans to launch its Electron (and Mr. Chompski) from Mahia, New Zealand, during a 14-day launch window that opens Nov. 15.