As if 2020 couldn't get any weirder, today a press mail from Valve Software entered our inbox because Gabe Newell, president of Valve, is getting a garden gnome sent into space. Yes, really, truly this is actual news and a thing that is happening. No this is not Kerbal Space Program.
This isn't some big joke, far from it. Working with Rocket Lab, a garden gnome will be launched into space while Newell from Valve watches. So why? Newell has announced that for every person who watches the launch live or within 24 hours of launch, one dollar will be donated by Newell to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at Starship. With the email joking that this will help "Newell's ultimate dream -- launching a children's hospital into space -- but in the interim will be used for more practical hospital-related purposes".
The gnome is no ordinary garden ornament either. Created with the help of Weta Workshop, not only is it printed in the shape of Half-Life gaming icon Gnome Chompski, part of this is also to test "and qualify a novel 3D printing technique that could be employed for future spacecraft components" and also as something of a homage to "the innovation and creativity of gamers worldwide". Sadly, Chompski is not expected to make it back to earth as it will burn up upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere during the de-orbiting process.
For those who didn't know, Gabe Newell has been in New Zealand visiting Weta Workshop and Rocket Labs, when the pandemic hit and has since called Auckland his temporary home. The email mentioned that Newell 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)" and to assure the people of New Zealand that "his eccentric attempts at charity are largely harmless and pose no immediate threat to their way of life".
You will be able to watch it happen live at https://www.rocketlabusa.com/live-stream sometime on November 16 NZT / November 15 UTC with the exact time to be confirmed. More info on the full mission here.
Update: it happened, watch it here.