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"My feeling is that the chance of our surviving into the twenty-first century as working civilization is less than fifty percent but greater than zero."
- Isaac Asimov

Mother Ship  
  A large spacecraft that serves as home base for other (usually smaller) ships.  

Many authors have used this expression and concept; however, as far as I know, this is the first use of the expression "mother ship" and the first use of the concept.

There will have to be some place for the operator of this ship to sleep and eat. I think the easiest way to solve that is to have a large fleet of mother ships—ships with a twenty-man crew, but still very active, and very deadly.
From The Black Star Passes, by John W. Campbell.
Published by Amazing Stories in 1930
Additional resources -

This term became a favorite of writers and readers alike. In his 1932 story Revolt of the Star Men, Raymond Z. Gallun wrote:

Nevertheless he looked longingly at the emergency space-boat hugging close to the hull of its mother ship, and fitted so admirably into her streamlining.

From Triplanetary (1934) by “Doc” Smith:

“As if contemptuous of any weapons the lifeboat might wield, the mother ship simply defended herself from the attacking beams, in much the same fashion as a wildcat mother wards off the claws and teeth of her spitting, snarling kitten who is resenting a touch of needed maternal discipline.“

Another example, from Seed of the Arctic Ice, a 1939 story by H.G. Winter:

Ken turned on her full twenty-four knots, zoomed above the dark bulk of the slower mother ship, whose light-beams flashed across him for a second, and then straightened out in a long, slight-angled dive after the great black bodies ahead.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Black Star Passes
  More Ideas and Technology by John W. Campbell
  Tech news articles related to The Black Star Passes
  Tech news articles related to works by John W. Campbell

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