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"Generally, the human race avoids doing anything radical until forced into it."
- Frederik Pohl

Airlock  
  An intermediate chamber between airless space and the interior of a space craft.  

How can you go between the void of space and oxygen-rich interior of your space craft?

DuQuesne reported briefly to the two girls. All three put on space-suits and crowded into the tiny airlock. The lock was pumped down.
Technovelgy from Skylark of Space, by E.E. 'Doc' Smith.
Published by Not known in 1928
Additional resources -

The phrase "air lock" and the basic purpose was first used in the mid-19th century in relation to sea-going vessels.

Not all airlocks and doors were tiny; this excerpt is from The Power Planet (1931) by Murray Leinster.

Then there was the clank of the airlock door — a vast circle a hundred feet across.

Those in the observatory felt a sudden savage suction of air. It swayed them upon their feet.

“In a hurry,” said Jimmy Cardigan grimly. “The Commander let in the air from the Planet instead of the tanks. He’s in a hurry, too.”

This is perhaps the earliest usage of the phrase in science fiction. However, the idea was put forward much earlier; see the entry for the double-door vestibule from Astor's 1894 novel A Journey in Other Worlds.

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

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