Gabe Newell is launching a garden gnome into space for charity.
For every person who watches the gnome launch online (live or within 24 hours of the launch), Newell will donate one dollar to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at Starship, a children's hospital in Auckland, New Zealand. Newell has been staying in the country since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Valve says the reason Newell was in New Zealand to begin with was to visit friends at Weta Workshop and Rocket Lab, the two companies that are helping with the launch. Weta is building the gnome, which "will be manufactured from titanium and printed in the shape of Half-Life gaming icon Gnome Chompski," says Valve. Gnome Chompski is a garden gnome prop that originally appeared in Half-Life 2: Episode Two, and whose fame comes from the fact that if you carry him all the way to the end of the game and launch him into space (a very difficult thing to do), you get the "Little Rocket Man" achievement.
Rocket Lab (which does US military work as well as commercial launches) is launching Chompski "as part of a rideshare mission" from Launch Complex 1 in Mahia, New Zealand. The launch will occur sometime within 14 days of November 16 NZT. After depositing 30 satellites in orbit, the rocket is designed to reorient itself in orbit and reenter the atmosphere in such a way as to completely burn up, which makes Gnome Chompski's chances of survival "grim," says Newell.
According to Rocket Lab, "The mission serves as an homage to the innovation and creativity of gamers worldwide, and also aims to test and qualify a novel 3D printing technique that could be employed for future spacecraft components."
Since the start of the pandemic, Newell has "called Auckland his temporary home, and has been looking for a way to help the economy and the community that sheltered him (or at least hasn't kicked him out yet)," says Valve. "Newell would like the good people of New Zealand, global leaders of living in New Zealand, to know that his eccentric attempts at charity are largely harmless and pose no immediate threat to their way of life."
Since it came out that he was riding out COVID-19 in New Zealand, Newell has been talking up the country, and there was even some suggestion of relocating others, perhaps Valve employees, to the island. Aside from the gnome launch, Newell and friends are helping host a "We Love Aotearoa" concert, which is currently postponed.