Gaming billionaire Gabe Newell donates $286k to Starship after 'Gnome Chompski' space adventure

More than a quarter of a million dollars has been donated to the Starship Foundation after Valve founder Gabe Newell sent a titanium garden gnome into space aboard a Rocket Lab flight.

'Gnome Chompski' - a titanium figurine launched into space on a Rocket Lab flight by Valve founder Gabe Newell. Source: Rocket Lab

Newell, billionaire founder of global game company Valve, has been in New Zealand since before the Covid-19 pandemic began and is now going through the process of applying for residency here.

As tribute to the ingenuity of gamers, Newell arranged to send an unusual payload into space aboard Rocket Lab's latest Electron launch last week — a titanium garden gnome made by Weta Workshop.

'Gnome Chompski' is a character from Valve's Half-Life 2 game, and other games, whose function was to be carried safely by the player through difficult conditions — right to the end of the game.

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Newell pledged to donate $1 to the Starship Foundation for every person who viewed Rocket Lab's Electron launch on Friday afternoon.

Today, his organisation, racing team The Heart of Racing, announced that a total of $286,092 would be donated to the Starship Foundation following the launch.

Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck said "we are delighted to have played a role in supporting the Starship Foundation through this launch".

"We’re immensely grateful to all the space fans and gamers who tuned in to help us reach a huge total number of views," Beck said.

"What Gabe and The Heart of Racing Team have achieved with this initiative will make a difference in the lives of so many Kiwi kids and it has been an honour to be part of it."

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It’s the aerospace company’s 16th Electron launch.

Starship Foundation CEO Aisha Daju Punga said those at the children's hospital were blown away by the donation.

"We want to extend our heartfelt gratitude to Rocket Lab for their willingness to get in behind this initiative and our incredibly generous partner Gabe Newell and The Heart of Racing team.

"We are truly overwhelmed by the result of this inspiring collaboration of hearts and minds for the children of New Zealand."