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"Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today -- but the core of science fiction, its essence has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all."
- Isaac Asimov

Lifeboat  
  A small space-worthy craft that can be jettisoned from a larger ship, to save its crew.  

Through the airlock, down through several levels of passenger's quarters they hurried, and into a lifeboat.
From Triplanetary, by E.E. 'Doc' Smith.
Published by Not known in 1934
Additional resources -

Compare this very early use of the concept with a more famous descendant, the escape pod from George Lucas' 1976 story Star Wars.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Triplanetary
  More Ideas and Technology by E.E. 'Doc' Smith
  Tech news articles related to Triplanetary
  Tech news articles related to works by E.E. 'Doc' Smith

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