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"I went back to science fiction to try a few experiments …and my first experiment was a disaster…"
- Alfred Bester

Life Tubes  
  Escape pods for space ships.  

A unique term for this idea.

Scarcely had the allotted time elapsed when the Swan lay in position to grapple and board the derelict.

That she was deserted there was not the slightest doubt. There was not the least sign of life about her. Yet were the passengers and crew aboard her — dead? What about the tell-tale life tubes? Quickly examining the sides of the big ship, Captain Val Cameron noted the empty pockets. Then the ship was abandoned! They had taken to the tubes.

But the life tubes were risky in the meteor-infested heavens at this time of the year. Although equipped like the mother ship, they were not nearly so strong and their ability to maneuver out of the onrushing meteor cluster was questionable.


(Life Tubes from 'Liners of Space' by Jim Vanny)

The anxiety was telling on Cameron. And to add to his worries the meteoric shower was becoming worse and the Swan was in constant danger. The crew of the silver air vessel were striving to find a hole in the storm through which they might pursue their search.

Then it came with a startling abruptness. Driscoll gave a cry and pointed to the screen. There it was — number 12 life tube — lying a thousand miles astern.

In a few minutes the Swan had drawn up alongside the tube. But as the two men from the Swan boarded the little craft, their eyes met that same scene of desolation that they had. encountered upon her mother ship. A quick test showed she had oxygen — plenty of it. And yet, across the floor of the car were the bodies of Jackson and Manning. Could the vessel have been deserted for some reason? The crew might have mutinied, and left her in the life-tubes. She might have been robbed by pirates, and set adrift. But with the space lanes policed as they were, piracy and successful mutiny were rare.

From Liners of Space, by Jim Vanny.
Published by Air Wonder Stories in 1930
Additional resources -

Jack Williamson uses the same term in his 1933 classic Salvage in Space:

Could the vessel have been deserted for some reason? The crew might have mutinied, and left her in the life-tubes. She might have been robbed by pirates, and set adrift. But with the space lanes policed as they were, piracy and successful mutiny were rare.

Compare to the lifeboat from Spacehounds of IPC (1931) by 'Doc' Smith, the escapecraft from The Ethical Equations (1945) by Murray Leinster, the emergency space-boat from Revolt of the Star Men (1932) by Raymond Z. Gallun, the manshell from Sunward Flight (1943) by Leo Zagat, the escape pod from Star Wars (1976) by George Lucas, the survival bubble from Footfall (1985) by Niven & Pournelle, the life ship from The Invisible World by Ed Earl Repp, the deceleration chambers from The Storm (1943) by AE van Vogt and the emergency lifeboats from Triplanetary (1934) by 'Doc' Smith.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Liners of Space
  More Ideas and Technology by Jim Vanny
  Tech news articles related to Liners of Space
  Tech news articles related to works by Jim Vanny

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