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"...a few centuries of coherent humanist thought, set against a million odd years of evolved killer ape tendency. No-one's going to give you very good odds on humanism, are they?"
- Richard Morgan

Escape Pod (Life Pod, Boat Pod)  
  A small ship used solely as a "life boat."  

Although this is the use of the phrase most familiar to modern fans, the first instance came in 1954; see the entry for escape pod.

"You've led us through half the ship, and to what...?"[Threepio] broke off, staring in disbelief as the squat robot reached up with one clawed limb and snapped the seal on a lifeboat hatch...

Artoo was already working his way into the cramped boat pod. It was just large enough to hold several humans, and its design was not laid out to accommodate mechanicals. Artoo had some trouble negotiating the awkward little compartment.

"Hey," a startled Threepio called, admonishing, "you're not permitted in there..."

Somehow Artoo had succeeded in wedging his body into position in front of the miniature control board.

Muttering the electronic equivalent of consigning his soul to the unknown, the lanky robot jumped into the life pod. "I'm going to regret this," he muttered more audibly as Artoo activated the safety door behind him. The smaller robot flipped a series of switches, snapped back a cover, and pressed three buttons in a certain sequence. With the thunder of explosive latches the life pod ejected from the crippled fighter...

Threepio stared, mesmerized, out the small viewport set in the front of the tiny escape pod as the hot yellow eye of Tatooine began to swallow them up.

From Star Wars, by George Lucas.
Published by Del Rey in 1976
Additional resources -

There were a variety of early approaches to this idea - see spacecraft rescue for more details about these programs. Also, Werner von Braun also worked on escape pod designs in the 1960's. Also compare to the Survival Bubble (Beach Ball) from Footfall (1985) by Larry Niven (w/J. Pournelle).

Compare to the deceleration chambers from The Storm (1943) by AE van Vogt, the escapecraft from The Ethical Equations (1945) by Murray Leinster, the space dory from Asteroid Justice (1947) by VE Thiessen, the emergency space-boat from Revolt of the Star Men (1932) by Raymond Z. Gallun, the survival bubble from Footfall (1985) by Niven & Pournelle, life tubes from Liners of Space (1930) by Jim Vanny, the life ship from The Invisible World by Ed Earl Repp and the emergency lifeboats from Triplanetary (1934) by 'Doc' Smith.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Star Wars
  More Ideas and Technology by George Lucas
  Tech news articles related to Star Wars
  Tech news articles related to works by George Lucas

Escape Pod (Life Pod, Boat Pod)-related news articles:
  - Space Rescue Technology In Fact And Fiction
  - Escape Pods, Refuge Of ISS Astronauts From Space Junk
  - Blue Origin Tests 'Escape Pod' Capability

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Used Dragon Cargo Spacecraft Will Fly Again
Laser-Powered Spacecraft To Explore The Solar System

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