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"In science fiction one can say a great many things that are unpalatable, because it's expressed as science fiction you can slip it past their defenses."
- Frederik Pohl

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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