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"I can remember when the first pulsars were discovered. I was able to go and sit down and listen to graduate students talking about what their theories, to explain what pulsars really were."
- Vernor Vinge

Life-Ship  
  An emergency escape or survival craft.  

This is a very early use of this phrase, maybe the first.

...Jared Nathan, rear admiral in the Terrestrial Fleet, had set the condemned men free in a life-ship before the planetoid had been reached.
From The Invisible World, by Ed Earl Repp.
Published by Amazing Stories in 1940
Additional resources -

Compare to emergency lifeboats and the ablative heat shield from Triplanetary (1938), the Survival Bubble (Beach Ball) from Footfall (1985) by Larry Niven (w/J. Pournelle) and the Star Wars escape pod from Star Wars (1977).

See this related story Space Rescue Technology In Fact And Fiction.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Invisible World
  More Ideas and Technology by Ed Earl Repp
  Tech news articles related to The Invisible World
  Tech news articles related to works by Ed Earl Repp

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