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"...science fiction is sort of like a sociological genome. It's a huge range of possible futures, most of them useless; some vital. You never really know in advance."
- Peter Watts

Emergency Lifeboat  
  A small craft used as a bail-out vehicle from a large space station or spacecraft.  

Then, each grasping Clio by an arm, the two officers shoved mightily with their feet, and the three armored forms darted away toward their only hope of escape - an emergency lifeboat that could be launched through the shell of the great globe. To attempt to reach the Hyperion and to escape in one of her lifeboats would have been useless; they could not have forced the great gates of the main airlocks and no other exits existed.
From Triplanetary, by E.E. 'Doc' Smith.
Published by Not known in 1934
Additional resources -

There are other, earlier references in sf to a "lifeship" that serves this same purpose. In 1946, John MacDougal wrote about it in "Chaos, Coordinated"; there is an even earlier mention in 1940, from Harry Walton's "Moon of Exile".

Take a look at Larry Niven's crash web to protect yourself from deceleration trauma. And don't forget the Star Wars escape pod.

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