Half-Life 2's garden gnome reaches space aboard Rocket Lab's Electron - Free achievement if you login to Half Life 2 or L4D2 right now

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To boldly gnome where no gnome has gnomed before.
Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab's sleek, black Electron rocket is launched from New Zealand's picturesque Māhia Peninsula on Thursday. The mission was a significant step in the plucky spaceflight startup's ambitious plans to recover a rocket booster in midair with a helicopter. But it was also a momentous launch for gnomes and Gabe Newell, founder of video game powerhouse Valve.

A 5-inch titanium garden gnome, dubbed Gnome Chompski, was strapped to the Electron rocket's Kick Stage, a circular platform that drops satellites into orbit and then falls back toward the Earth, for the duration of the mission.

Chompski will be familiar to Half-Life fans. In Half-Life 2: Episode Two, carrying the gnome from its hiding spot in the communications building to a rocket earns the achievement Little Rocket Man. Fitting, then. Weirdly, to celebrate the flight, Valve updated the achievements for Half-Life 2: Episode Two, a game that's now 13 years old.

And real-world Chompski isn't just a fancy weight to attach to a rocket booster. It's performing science. The gnome was created with a novel 3D printing technique, with support of New Zealand's Weta Workshop, that will be put to the test on its way into the great beyond.



Clean Stage 1 and Stage 2 separation and fairing jettison. Welcome to space, Gnome Chompski! pic.twitter.com/7WYKchR3ux
— Rocket Lab (@RocketLab) November 20, 2020

Chompski's flight wasn't all science and video games though. It also contributed to charity. For every viewer of the launch, Newell pledged to donate $1 to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit New Zealand's Starship Foundation. It's unclear how many people tuned in live across Twitch and YouTube at present.

What fate ultimately awaits Chompski? Not a pretty one. Eventually, the Kick Stage and Chompski will burn up upon re-entry to Earth's atmosphere.

Try not to think about that too much and just enjoy the ride.


First published on Nov. 18, 2020 at 5:18 p.m. PT.

EDIT: Here's the video of the launch:

 

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