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"[Science fiction is] nightmares and visions, always outlined by the barely possible."
- Gregory Benford

Inflatable Air Lock  
  Air lock making use of inflatable side walls to achieve large size.  

This is a very early reference to the idea of using inflatable modules of any kind in space, as well as to the idea of using an inflatable air lock.

The net and the plastic sidewalls were, of course, the method by which a really large airlock was made practical. When this ship was about to take off again, pumps would not labor for hours to pump the air out. The sidewalls would inflate and closely enclose the ship's hull, and so force the air in the lock back into the ship. Then the pumps would work on the air behind the inflated wallsówith nets to help them draw the wall-stuff back to let the ship go free. The lock could be used with only fifteen minutes for pumping instead of four hours.
From Space Tug, by Murray Leinster.
Published by Not known in 1953
Additional resources -

Apparently, the first-ever spacewalk, by Alexi Leonov in 1965, featured an inflatable airlock. The Voskhod spacecraft itself was far too small for a self-contained airlock, so they made an inflatable one that extended outside the vehicle.

I wonder if the Russians were reading up on American sf, or if there is an earlier source for the idea. Anyone?

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  More Ideas and Technology from Space Tug
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