Gabe Newell is still in New Zealand due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s apparently been very happy with the country for allowing him to stay as the viral pandemic took hold and was beaten back to near zero new cases in the country, but there is a reason Newell was there in the first place, and now we know. It was to send Gnome Chompski into space, but for real this time.
In partnership with Weta Workshop and Valve, Rocket Lab announced that it will be including a special passenger on its Flight 16 mission, which will take place no sooner than November 15, 2020. That special passenger is a replica of Valve’s favorite garden gnome, Gnome Chompski, as manufactured by Weta Workshop. The gnome appears as a prop in Half-Life 2: Episode 2, wherein if players can actually carry Gnome Chompski to the end of the game, place him in a rocket, and launch him into space, the achievement “Little Rocket Man” is earned. In a fun nod to that achievement, Newell and Weta are sending a real Gnome Chompski on Rocket Lab’s Flight 16 to test a 3D printing technique and its application on future spacecraft components.
As it turns out, this was the reason Gabe Newell was in New Zealand in the first place when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and he found himself, along with partner Teagan Klein and friend and pro race car driver Alex Riberas, taking an extended stay in the country. Gabe Newell has since worked to give back to New Zealand, including arranging a free concert. There was even talk of him opening a Valve office there.
Regardless, on the matter of Rocket Lab’s Flight 16, Newell is continuing his effort to give back to New Zealand as well. Reportedly, Gabe Newell will donate a dollar to Auckland, New Zealand children’s hospital Starship for every viewer of Rocket Lab’s Flight 16 livestream either live or within 24 hours of going live. As Flight 16 launches several satellites into Earth’s orbit, it is meant to then re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and completely burn up in the process, along with Gnome Chompski, so unfortunately it’s looking like a one-way trip for the real-life Little Rocket Man.
Regardless, Gnome Chompski is sacrificing for a right and noble cause. You couldn’t ask for much more as a video game garden gnome than to benefit the medical care of children and the science of space travel materials and manufacturing. It may be one of the most elaborate enactments of a video game achievement ever, but we salute Newell, Weta Workshop, Rocket Lab, and, of course, Gnome Chompski on this brave mission. Stay tuned for further details on the launch of Rocket Lab’s Flight 16 as they become available later this month.