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"Science fiction is really sociological studies of the future, things that the writer believes are going to happen by putting two and two together."
- Ray Bradbury

Escape Pod  
  A small ship used solely as a "life boat."  

This is a very early use of the term "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).

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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-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

Articles related to Spacecraft
Laser-Powered Spacecraft To Explore The Solar System
SKYLON Space Plane Gets Boost
Europe's Cheops To Look For Habitable Planets
SpaceX Dragon First Private Craft To Dock With ISS

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