Gabe Newell, president of gaming company Valve - best known for developing the platform Steam, as well as the Half-Life, Left 4 Dead, and Portal series - has recently announced a rather unique charity project: he's launching a gnome into space.
Yup. You read that right. A small garden gnome sculpture made from titanium is going to space.
The six-inch tall gnome, which is inspired by an item in the Half-Life franchise, was designed by New Zealand-based studio Weta Workshop, which has previously created props for films including Avatar and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It will be launched on a rocket produced by Rocket Lab, an aerospace company with offices in Long Beach, California and Auckland, NZ. The gnome will travel approximately 311 miles into space, before harmlessly burning up upon re-entering Earth's atmosphere.
Newell has planned this event as a thank you to the country of New Zealand, in response to their hospitality during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Valve president, who usually lives in the United States, found himself stuck in New Zealand for several months after traveling to visit friends at Weta Workshop just before quarantine and "shelter in place" orders were issued. Reportedly, he has greatly enjoyed his time in New Zealand and wants to give back to the country which has been so kind to him.
The gnome, who has been named "Gnome Chompski" after linguist Noam Chomsky, will have its ascent and disintegration livestreamed sometime in mid-November. For every person who watches the livestream within 24 hours, Newell has pledged to donate one dollar to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at Starship Children's Hospital in Auckland.
The launch will take place in late November during a two-week launch window taking place on the tip of New Zealand's Mahia Peninsula. The final date, as well as further information regarding how to watch the livestream, will be announced as the launch period nears.