In gratitude for New Zealand’s hospitality, Valve president Gabe Newell is sending a garden gnome to space with the help of aerospace company Rocket Lab, hopefully by November 15.
Newell has decided to stay in New Zealand at the onset of the global coronavirus pandemic. The stunt between Newell and Rocket Lab is for the benefit of the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at Starship Children’s Hospital in Auckland, pledging a dollar for every viewer who will tune in at the live stream of its satellite launch, as well as the online replay 24 hours after the rocket flies.
The sixteenth launch for Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket is set to launch from the aerospace contractor’s Launch Complex 1, situated at the southern tip of New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula, following a fourteen-day launch window opening on November 15, UTC.
For Valve, its garden gnome will serve as a mass simulator for the mission. Known as “Gnome Chompski,” the 3D printed character will be used to qualify a new 3D printing technique from the design studio Weta Workshop. Chompski will be fabricated from titanium and will be a “stand-in” for future space equipment made from the same materials and printing technology. Rocket Lab reports that the 150mm gnome will stay attached to the rocket’s Kick Stage, burning up on re-entry at the atmosphere.
Rocket Lab will be lofting 30 satellites, plus the Valve garden gnome. The satellite payloads will be sent to a sun-synchronous orbit 500 kilometers high – with the satellites coming from a variety of customers including French space startup Unseenlabs as well as the Auckland Programme for Space Systems, and of course, Valve.
For the Auckland Programme for Space Systems under The University of Auckland in New Zealand, the student-developed Waka Āmiorangi Aotearoa APSS-1 satellite will be monitoring electrical activity across Earth’s atmosphere. It will support a study on whether disturbances in the ionosphere has a relationship with earthquakes on the ground.
Swarm Technologies will be using the Rocket Lab aerospace ridesharing service to send its latest batch of 1/4U SpaceBEE satellite constellation, with this batch containing 24 satellites intended to provide communications services to remote places around the world.
Gnome Chompski is a meme and pop culture item that traces its origins in the 2007 game Half Life 2: Episode 2, developed by Newell’s Valve. First known as the Garden Gnome, carrying this item to the end of the game earns the player the “Little Rocket Man” achievement. It subsequently became well-known, thanks to speedruns by various game streamers.
Tech and gaming portal The Verge reports that the Half Life garden gnome was like a reference to a wide prank in the early 90s where photographers capture stolen garden gnomes supposedly “traveling” around the world. This prank gained further traction when a garden gnome appeared in the film Amélie and the ad campaign for Travelocity.
Gnome Chompski also appears as an improvised Easter Egg weapon in another Valve game, Left 4 Dead 2, as well as in a downloadable content for the survival horror video game Dying Light as well as the virtual reality survival Half-Life: Alyx.
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Gabe Newell, Valve Corporation, Half-Life, Garden gnome, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Rocket Lab
World news – CA – “Little Rocket Man”: Valve President Gabe Newell to Send Garden Gnome to Space