December 1, 2020
Valve's Gabe Newell is rocketing a Half-Life 2 icon to space Thursday

Valve’s Gabe Newell is rocketing a Half-Life 2 icon to space Thursday


To boldly gnome where no gnome has gnomed before.

Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab’s sleek, black Electron rocket is set to launch from New Zealand’s picturesque Māhia Peninsula on Thursday. The mission is a significant step in the plucky spaceflight startup’s ambitious plans to recover a rocket booster in midair with a helicopter. It’s also set to be momentous for gnomes and Gabe Newell, founder of video game powerhouse Valve.

A 5-inch titanium garden gnome, dubbed Gnome Chompski, will be strapped to the Electron rocket’s Kick Stage, a circular platform that drops satellites into orbit and then falls back toward the Earth, for the duration of the mission. 

Chompski will be familiar to Half-Life fans. In Half-Life 2: Episode Two, carrying the gnome from its hiding spot in the communications building to a rocket earns the achievement Little Rocket Man. Fitting, then.

And real-world Chompski isn’t just a fancy weight to attach to a rocket booster. It’s performing science. The gnome was created with a novel 3D printing technique, with support of New Zealand’s Weta Workshop, that will be put to the test on its way into the great beyond. 

Chompski’s flight isn’t all science and video games, either. It’s also going to contribute to charity. For every viewer of the launch, Newell has pledged to donate $1 to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit New Zealand’s Starship Foundation. You can find out how to watch here.

What fate ultimately awaits the gnome? Not a pretty one. Eventually, the Kick Stage and Chompski will burn up upon re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere. 

Try not to think about that too much and just enjoy the ride.

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