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"The wealth of the universe is all over your head. We need to take command of the solar system to gain that wealth..."
- Larry Niven

Spacecraft Ejection Seat  
  An ejection seat for spacecraft, to be used in the event of problems during launch.  

This is a relatively early mention of the idea of an ejection seat for a spacecraft.

"Look, Joe! We checked everything last night. We checked it again this morning. I even caught Mike polishing the ejection seats, because there wasn't anything else to make sure of!"

Joe managed a smile. The ejection seats were assuredly the most unlikely of all devices to be useful today. They were supposedly life-saving devices. If the ship came a cropper on take-off, the four of them were supposed to use ejection-seats like those supplied to jet pilots. They would be thrown clear of the ship and ribbon-parachutes might open and might let them land alive. But it wasn't likely. Joe had objected to their presence. If a feather dropped to Earth from a height of 600 miles, it would be falling so fast when it hit the atmosphere that it would heat up and burn to ashes from pure air-friction. It wasn't likely that they could get out of the ship if anything went wrong.

From Space Tug, by Murray Leinster.
Published by Not known in 1953
Additional resources -

Ejection seats for aircraft were first used in Germany in 1938; they were perfected during the second world war. As far as I know, the only ejection seats formally designed and used in spacecraft were installed in the Soviet Vostok craft and the American Gemini craft. (See a picture of the Vostok spacecraft ejection seat.)

The earliest flights of the Space Shuttle also had installed ejector seats; these were removed to make room for more crew.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Space Tug
  More Ideas and Technology by Murray Leinster
  Tech news articles related to Space Tug
  Tech news articles related to works by Murray Leinster

Spacecraft Ejection Seat-related news articles:
  - Launch-Abort Motor For NASA: The Next Generation

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