Gaming billionaire Gabe Newell is launching a Half Life-inspired titanium gnome into space, and you can watch its journey above Earth via livestream

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  • Billionaire Gabe Newell, president of gaming company Valve, is launching a 3D-printed, titanium gnome into space later this month to thank New Zealand for its hospitality during the pandemic.
  • The gnome, inspired by an item from Valve’s “Half Life” video game franchise, was designed by New Zealand company Weta Workshop, and will blast into space on a rocket made by aerospace company Rocket Lab.
  • You can can live-stream its journey from mid-November, and Newell will donate a dollar to a New Zealand children’s hospital for every viewer.
  • US-based Newell has spent the pandemic in New Zealand, having initially arrived to see friends from Weta Workshop and Rocket Lab.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Billionaire Gabe Newell, president of gaming giant Valve, has found an unusual way to thank New Zealand for its hospitality during the pandemic: He’s launching a gnome into space.

Valve — which makes and publishes video games, and owns PC gaming storefront Steam — is headquartered in Bellevue, Washington, but Newell has spent the pandemic in New Zealand, after initially coming to visit friends at design studio Weta Workshop and Rocket Lab, a Long Beach-based aerospace company with a subsidiary in Auckland.

The titanium, 3D-printed gnome is a tribute to an item from Valve’s video games, and was designed by Weta Workshop, which worked on “Avatar,” “Mulan,” and the “Lord of the Rings” franchise.

It will blast into space on one of Rocket Lab’s rockets.

For every viewer who watches the satellite launch livestream or the online recording within 24 hours of launch in mid-November, Newell will donate a dollar to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at Starship Children’s Hospital in Auckland.

Gabe Newell, 2013
Gabe Newell, Valve’s president. Isaac Brekken/Invision/AP

The 6-inch gnome will be launched about 311 miles into space, before burning upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.

The gnome is a tribute to “Gnome Chompski,” an item that first appeared in Valve’s game “Half-Life 2: Episode Two” before popping up in other Valve games.


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Rocket Lab is launching the gnome in its Electron rocket from the southern tip of New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula during a 14-day launch period from November 16.

The rocket, which can carry up to 440lb of cargo, will bring 30 satellites into a sun-synchronous orbit. These satellites include communications and maritime-surveillance satellites, as well as New Zealand’s first student-built satellite.

Depending on the success of the 3D-printing method, the technique could be used for future spacecraft components, Rocket Lab said.