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" I think that computers today allow us one last opportunity to provide something like a level playingfield in America."
- William Gibson

Escape Pod  
  A small automated ship attached to a larger ship or station, used in the event of an emergency.  

As far as I know, the first use of the phrase. Most people are more familiar with the use of this phrase in the original Star Wars movie; see escape pod (life pod, boat pod).

He raced through the station, heading for the escape pod. He had to get down to Earth...

Web lowered himself into the escape pod, strapped himself down and pressed the button. The pod shot down from the station, down and away, and a great orange flame spread out from its bow. It lost speed quickly, steadily, as the rockets pushed it back. After a while the flames died out. The pod began to fall...

The controls of the escape pod were preset. It checked its fall with controlled, measured bursts, fell quickly and steeply until it bounced off the atmosphere. Once in the air the stubby wings took hold and the pod began to glide, blasting from time to time to slow itself down. There was no light in the pod, and Web rode all the way down in a silent, rushing, horrible blackness. He had plenty of time to consider the fact that the pod had never been used before. It had never even been tested. Well, he thought philosophically, if it did not work he would undoubtedly never feel the end.

Not long before the pod hit he began to hear the air scream past, and he braced himself. The braking rockets cut loose for the last time. There was one great rending crash, a series of enormous pops like corks being pulled on tire biggest bottles in the world, and a really awful, shattering, bone- mangling impact. And then the pod was down.

From The Vanisher, by Michael Shaara.
Published by Planet Stories in 1954
Additional resources -

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, the life tubes from Salvage in Space (1933) by Jack Williamson, 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 The Vanisher
  More Ideas and Technology by Michael Shaara
  Tech news articles related to The Vanisher
  Tech news articles related to works by Michael Shaara

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