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Escape Pod

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Concept sketch by John Eaves for the escape pods on the Sovereign-class USS Enterprise-E.

Lister: Rimmer, the escape pod is not an option.
Rimmer: Why not?
Lister: It escaped. Last Thursday. I was having a few beers. I didn't bother to get up, so I used the release mechanism as a bottle opener.

A lifeboat... IN SPACE.

Sometimes called a Life Pod, it is a nearly universal trope in Space Opera, and a tried and true part of the Standard Sci-Fi Fleet. When your Cool Starship's Faster Than Light Drive is about to suffer a critical Phlebotinum Overload, or Space Pirates are targeting your exhaust port with Frickin' Laser Beams, it's time to head for the Escape Pods, and take your chances drifting on the endless ocean of space in a tiny, fragile shell with no weapons, rudimentary engines, and in cramped quarters with people you may not like.

Just hope the enemy doesn't decide to Sink the Lifeboats, that your Distress Call does not go unanswered, and that the Conveniently Close Planet you're forced to land on as your pod's limited supplies dwindle doesn't turn out to be a Death World.

The Escape Pod can come in handy should a Boarding Party of Scary Dogmatic Aliens announce that All Your Base Are Belong to Us, and you find it prudent not to question them. Similarly, keep it in mind if you ever find yourself on the wrong end of The Mutiny.

If you're ever stuck in a Supervillain Lair thoughtfully equipped with a Self-Destruct Mechanism, you may want to memorize the route to the nearest Escape Pod... just in case. A nearby Escape Pod may also prove convenient if you've been captured by the villain and are making an Air Vent Escape.

In a pinch, Escape Pods can be used for purposes besides evacuation — they provide a more humane alternative if you feel the urge to throw someone out the airlock, and on rare occasions might even be used to deploy your Space Marines. But in order for a pod to count as an example of this trope, its primary (or at least informed) purpose must be to serve as a science-fictiony life boat.

In Real Life, the International Space Station always has two spacecraft docked that can act as "escape pods" in case of emergency (these are also the same ships used to carry crew and supplies to the ISS in the first place). Rockets carrying astronauts also have an eject system that can separate the crew module from the rest of the rocket in case something goes wrong during launch. However, as commonly portrayed in science fiction, the use of escape pods does not always make sense. As writer and game designer Jim Cambias put it:

"Why abandon a spaceship, however shot up or meteor-damaged it may be, just to hang around in a flimsy balloon or cramped pod? You're still on the same course, since no life pod can carry much delta-v, and the life-support problems are considerable. Why not include some kind of pressure balloon to provide temporary airtight containment in a hulled compartment and use the ship's own life support? That way you get the ship's radiation shielding, power, etc.
"If it's a reactor emergency you're worried about, don't eject the crew in pods, EJECT THE REACTOR!
"Actually, I realize perfectly well the purpose of life pods: it lets sf writers tell lifeboat stories in space."

Of course, in science fiction, stricken spaceships more often than not blow up like firecrackers — so trying to get away in an Escape Pod makes enough sense. Other justifications may include facing a Worthy Opponent who can be trusted not to Sink the Lifeboats but has no problem utterly destroying your Cool Starship, or avoiding a Reentry Scare if your damaged ship can't survive entering a planet's atmosphere, but your escape pods can (or they do have engines powerful enough to aim for the safety(?) of space). It is also a way to show surrender — essentially giving up your ship so the other party can have it. Deadly Escape Mechanism occurs when the escape pod kills its occupants.

Contrast the Boarding Pod, which is for getting onto the ship in a hopefully unexpected manner. Compare Disposable Vehicle Section when you still want to escape with most of your vehicle intact, and Drop Pod and Drop Ship for other small ships that detach from bigger ones and are designed for atmospheric entry in non-emergency situations.


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  • When Volkswagen's New Beetle first appeared, with its compact, rounded, mildly Science Fiction-y shape, it was advertised with billboards that called it an "Escape Pod."

    Anime & Manga 
  • Gundam franchise:
    • As early as the original Mobile Suit Gundam, larger battleships carried smaller ships for evacuating crew.
    • Set during the same period, the Federation mobile suits in Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt were equipped with Core Blocks, small block-shaped ships with pop-out engines to improve survivability. They're a simplified version of the Core Fighter, which has a similar feel to this trope but is more an Emergency Weapon than an escape pod.
    • The original purpose of the Core Figher in Mobile Suit Gundam was as an escape pod for the "learning computer"; the combat data colleged by the Guntank, Guncannon and especially Gundam prototypes was considered far more valuable to the Earth Federation than the lives of their pilots. Their utility as an Emergency Weapon was a result of the pilot being expected to fight their way out of danger and protect the computer if their mobile suit was crippled.
    • Char's Sazabi in Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack has a spherical escape pod that he fled in at the end of the movie. It's snagged out of the air by Amuro Ray's Nu Gundam.
  • Red Baron: Most Metal Fighters are equipped with escape pods, which the pilots use to eject when their robots get destroyed.

    Card Games 
  • The Star Wars Customizable Card Game reveals that Grand Moff Tarkin doesn't like it when Imperial officers use escape pods to escape (something he considers an act of cowardice), to put it nicely. This is based on Tarkin's statement during the Battle of Yavin in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
    Imperial officer: We've analyzed their attack, sir, and there is a danger. Should I have your ship standing by?
    Grand Moff Tarkin: Evacuate? In our moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances!

    Comic Books 
  • In Deep Gravity, once it's clear that the damaged freighter Vanguard can't be saved, the survivors decide to re-purpose a small repair craft as an escape pod. Unfortunately, Drummond (just exposed as the person who caused the disaster in the first place) escapes and launches it without the others. It doesn't do any good, though, since it just burns up in the planet's atmosphere.
  • Supergirl: In every alternate universes, when Supergirl's hometown/planet is about to be destroyed, her parents build a escape pod and launch her towards Earth as seen in The Supergirl From Krypton (1959). Her pods' design have considerably changed throughout the years: Silver Age, The Supergirl from Krypton (2004) model and Last Daughter of Krypton pod.
  • G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero: In the comics, G.I. Joe's underground base has an escape pod: A small Drill Tank at the bottom of the base. Because who needs an escape tunnel that could be used as a backdoor in by the enemy when you can just make one on the spot?

    Fan Works 
  • Examples from The Calvinverse:
  • Rocketship Voyager
    • Averted with the eponymous rocketship which has decompression shelter-balloons designed to be inflated inside Voyager's hull. They're also useful for rescuing people in a vacuum when they don't have time to put on a spacesuit, or as an improvised spacesuit for aliens who are shaped differently from humans. A transparent version is used for the treatment of casualties, to isolate them from floating blood droplets in zero-gravity.
    • An Organic Technology version is Thrown Out the Airlock by a convoy of spaceships as they pass Voyager. It resembles a large leathery egg filled with Breathable Liquid, and there's the obligatory Alien homage as the Space Marines search a dark Hanger Deck for its occupant who turns out to be Nee'Lix.

    Film — Animation 
  • Astro Kid: Willy and his parents have to deploy escape pods when their ship is destroyed by asteroids. Willy's pod is equiped with various survival gear, including a survival robot named Buick.
  • Incredibles 2:
    • The Underminer has a second, smaller Drill Tank inside his main tank which he uses to escape from Mr. Incredible.
    • Evelyn uses a jet built into the top of the Everjust to escape once her plan is in motion.
  • WALL•E has a scene featuring an escape pod that, for some inexplicable reason, had its own Self-Destruct Mechanism. The film's post-scriptum animation shows that (potentially explosive!) escape pods can also be used as makeshift shelters, and an escape pod plays a role in the related short BURN-E.
  • Ralph inadvertently uses one in Wreck-It Ralph just after he receives the Medal of Heroes. Also possesses an ejector seat which works AFTER crashing. Can also be reused as a means of transport.

    Film — Live-Action 

In General:

  • At least two movies have Air Force One equipped with an escape pod. Although the exact details of the planes (there are two that we normally call "Air Force One") are classified, it is extremely unlikely that any of the real planes has one.
    • Escape from New York. However it's set 20 Minutes into the Future, in a alternate history where the United States is at war. It's used to evacuate the President when a hijacker takes the controls, but unfortunately drops him right into the middle of New York which is now a Penal Colony, setting off the plot.
    • Air Force One: President Marshall is dragged to the escape pod by the Secret Service after terrorists hijack the plane. He sneaks out before it can be launched and stays on board to take the plane back. After the film came out, it was said that there wasn't a pod onboard, but that President Clinton thought it might be a good idea to have one installed.

By Movie:

  • Airplane II: The Sequel. Simon Kurtz (one of the flight officers) takes off (deserting the others in a cowardly manner) because he thinks the Mayflower shuttle is doomed. He Ejected Prematurely, no less.
  • Alien:
    • Alien. The crew plans to use the shuttle to leave the Nostromo, but only Ripley succeeds. The shuttle isn't intended to be an escape pod, though... it's actually a lifeboat. (There's only one, and it's not big enough to hold even half the crew.)
    • In the Title Sequence of Alien³, the Sulaco automatically slides its inhabited cryopods into the Emergency Escape Vehicle which forms part of the outer hull. The EEV then detaches and flies to the nearest inhabited planet.
    • Alien: Resurrection. Some of the Auriga's crew are seen evacuating the ship in a lifeboat when aliens overrun the ship. Unfortunately an alien gets on board before they shut the hatch, massacring those inside before their commander tosses in a grenade.
    • When the Prometheus is on suicide mission to bring down the alien space ship, Vickers escapes via escape pod. It doesn't help her survive for long.
    • Alien 40th Anniversary Shorts
      • The short film "Containment" lasts from the moment an escape pod leaves a self-destructing spaceship, to the moment it's picked up by a nearby spaceship. Unfortunately a Chest Burster has hitched a lift with the four survivors.
      • "Harvest" involves some other survivors trying to avoid a Xenomorph while making their way to the emergency shuttle. Unfortunately the synthetic has planted two alien eggs on board, ensuring that the Company will have a couple of impregnated hosts for study when the shuttle is picked up.
  • Battle Beyond the Stars. Sador has to lower the forcefield on his Mile-Long Ship to fire his Stellar Converter, so Saint-Exmin stops this by crashing her spaceship into it while ejecting in a pod which is immediately surrounded by three enemy fighters. She tells the others It Has Been an Honor and destructs the pod, taking the fighters with her. When Shad and Nanelia are facing capture, they tell their Sapient Ship Nell to activate the Self-Destruct Mechanism, but she insists they get into an escape "projectile" first. Fortunately there aren't any enemy fighters left, so they're the Sole Survivors of the eponymous battle.
  • The Cloverfield Paradox ends with the last two survivors of the now ruined space station taking an esape pod back home, which is last seen plunging into the clouds. From which a giant monster lifts its head and roars.
  • The Last Starfighter. Xur uses one to flee from the Ko-Dan ship.
  • Life (2017). The I.S.S. has two escape pods designed to automatically return to Earth. David lures the creature into one pod which he plans to manually pilot out into deep space while Miranda escapes in the other. It all goes disasterously wrong, with a collision knocking Miranda's pod out into space, while the creature wraps its tentacles around David so he can't use the controls, causing it to return to Earth and doom humanity.
  • Lifeforce (1985). Tom Carlsen returns to Earth from the space shuttle Churchill in one, as a plot device to have him and the Space Girl arrive on Earth separately.
  • The 1993 movie Lifepod is Alfred Hitchcock movie Lifeboat Recycled In Space, but using the situation for a Ten Little Murder Victims plot. There was a 1981 movie also called Lifepod (details here).
  • Man of Steel. Lois Lane escapes General Zod's spaceship in a pod, but it's damaged by gunfire and starts Coming in Hot, so Superman has to pull a last-second mid-air rescue.
  • An improvised version occurs in Mechanic Resurrection, using a diving bell on the Big Bad's megayacht. Later the protagonist uses a reinforced chain locker for the same purpose, escaping an explosion that destroys the yacht.
  • Pandorum: The Cryotubes can be ejected from the ship in an emergency, although it is stated that doing so in deep space is essentialy suicide, given that there is nobody to pick them up, nowhere for them to land, and only enough power to keep the tubes operational for a few days. In a Nightmare Fuel exposition scene, a crewmember suffering from Space Madness ejects all the pods, while at least one of the occupants is conscious.
  • Serenity. The Operative bugs out from an exploding Alliance ship using a one-person version.
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Joe and Polly use one to escape from Dr. Totenkopf's rocket before it explodes.
  • Spaceballs: Spaceball One has a grand total of seven single-seater escape pods. Dark Helmet, President Skroob and Colonel Sandurz all have their escape pods stolen by other crew members (and, in one case, a bear) as the ship self-destructs.
    • As an extra bonus, the visual effect for each escape pod launching homages the iconic Star Wars example below.
  • Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone begins with a large starship getting dinged by a stray asteroid. Despite announcements that "everything is under control," a row of escape pods along the ship's beltline deploy and eject. The first pod contains the nubile women Nova, Meagan, and Reena, and they are the only ones to survive the blast when the whole ship blows up. They land on the Crapsack World of Terra Eleven.
  • Starship Troopers
    • In the first movie, Carmen Ibanez and Zander Barcalow use a two-man version to get out of the Rodger Young after it's blown in half by a plasma burst. This is shown to be high-risk in itself—the ship is breaking up around them and one pod gets knocked off its launch rail before it can eject. Once clear of the spaceship they have to fly through a debris field and enemy fire, to land on a bug-infected planet.
    • In Starship Troopers 3: Marauder, a couple of pod-like versions are used to escape the Geronimo. Unfortunately, the one carrying their Space Marines suffers a pressure loss killing everyone on board.
  • Star Trek (2009): Spock has Kirk thrown into an escape pod and marooned on a Death World. The pod helpfully advises Kirk not to go outside after landing, and wait for rescue — advice he promptly ignores, of course. Which may be for the best, since when he finally made it to the Starfleet base, they seemed completely unaware that any rescue was needed... Why the computerized escape pod didn't call for help, or why it couldn't have tried landing a bit closer to the base, considering the environment, is not really clear.
    • Worth noting that as soon as Kirk leaves the pod, he gets attacked by the local food chain. He might have been better off just staying in there. It is also possible that the pod stopped trying to contact the base once Kirk left, since there would presumably be no point in calling rescue teams to an empty escape pod.
  • Star Trek Beyond shows that the Enterprise has escape pods adjacent to The Bridge called "Kelvin Pods," clearly named after the ship that was destroyed two movies ago.
  • Star Trek: First Contact: Multiple:
    • The Enterprise is trapped in the past, and the evil Borg are taking over the ship. Picard reluctantly agrees to destroy the ship to stop the Borg, and, aside from himself and Data, the entire crew flies down to Earth in escape pods with instructions to "stay out of history's way." The crisis is soon averted, and everyone returns to the ship... presumably using Teleportation, since it would be odd if the tiny pods could have taken off and made it back to orbit again themselves. Whether scattering future technology across the entire planet in the form of escape pods is a good idea when you're trying to keep history from changing is also never addressed.
    • A larger example, a Borg Sphere, ejects from the Borg Cube after Starfleet manages to deal out fatal damage during the Battle of Sector 001. The Sphere proves to be a Time Ship as well, and travels back to the 21st century, pursued by the Enterprise. The Borg are nothing if not adaptive, as soon as Enterprise pursues and attacks the Sphere, the Borg beam aboard the Enterprise and begin assimilating her and her crew while trying to prevent the humans from meeting the Vulcans, making this example also a Boarding Pod.
  • Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope:
    • The movie opens with C3PO and R2D2 fleeing Princess Leia's captured ship in an escape pod along with the blueprints detailing the Death Star's weak spot; Imperial gunners nearly blow them out of the sky before they note there are no actual lifesigns on board the pod. (The fact that they'd shoot down a pod with people on board, but not an empty one, tells the audience something about the Empire...) The robots' escape sets all the events of the original Star Wars trilogy in motion.
      • The Escape Pod launch was the first visual effect ever created by Industrial Light & Magic. The model for the pod itself was made out of paint buckets.
    • When the Millennium Falcon is captured by the Death Star, an Imperial officer reports to Darth Vader that the ship's log says that the crew abandoned ship after leaving Mos Eisley and several escape pods are missing. This was a ruse to make the Imperials think the protagonists were no longer on board.
      • This line resulted in numerous attempts, by both fans and Expanded Universe sources, to come up with where the Falcon's escape pods would be located. Due to the original Falcon design being scrapped (and reworked into Leia's blockade runner by adding the hammerhead bow section) very late in production, the new design (unlike the original) had neither obvious escape pods nor obvious hatches for launching internal ones.
      • One of its pods is finally seen in The Last Jedi where Rey uses it as a Boarding Pod to get on board Snoke's ship, the Supremacy. The pod is stored in a small docking bay, slightly larger than itself.
      • Becomes a Chekhov's Gun in Solo where Lando mentions adding an escape pod to the Falcon amongst other upgrades. Later, Han remotely jettisons it to distract an Eldritch Abomination that's following them. This pod externally bridges the two mandibles at the front of the ship.
  • Revenge of the Sith: In the opening battle, General Grievous eventually flees to an escape pod and successfully escapes the heroes. While doing so, he also remotely launches every other escape pod, in an attempt to ensure Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Palpatine are trapped on a doomed vessel. This also ensures the death of his crew, but he doesn't care about them.
  • At the climax of The Spy Who Loved Me, James Bond and Anya Amasova are trying to escape the sinking supervillain lair. Fortunately, Bond earlier noticed an "escape chamber" that the now-deceased supervillain no longer requires. It's a pod that floats to the surface and starts transmitting with a radio beacon, which brings a navy ship with their superiors on board to interrupt the obligatory Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex.

  • The titular ship of Aquila and its TV adaption is an alien escape pod that was found on earth.
  • Larry Niven's The Mote in God's Eye has both original life pods on Lenin and MacArthur, and the Motie-modified ones the three midshipmen use to descend to Mote Prime
  • Life Boats appear on a regular basis in Andre Norton's science fiction stories (where they're sometimes referred to as an "LB"). Oddly, they're often used for purposes other than just escaping from a destroyed ship.
    • In The Time Traders, Ross Murdock fell into one (in a crashed alien ship) while dying of exposure to Arctic conditions. The lifeboat's automatic systems recognized him as an injured intelligent lifeform and tucked him into a bunk full of some sort of healing goo; he came out some hours later feeling fine.
    • Played straight in The Zero Stone. Murdoc Jern is stranded aboard a derelict alien ship and escapes from it using a life boat. He eventually reaches a Conveniently Close Planet.
    • The Zero Stone: A life boat is used in an unusual manner three times in Uncharted Stars.
      • Murdoc Jern uses a life boat to make a stealth landing on the criminal planet Sororis and later return to his starship in orbit.
      • Murdoc and Eet take a life boat down to an unnamed planet in order to warn some Zacathan archeologists about a Jack (pirate) raid. They return to their starship in orbit with a wounded Zacathan they rescued.
      • Murdoc and Eet use a lifeboat to make a stealth approach to the pirate space station of Waystar and escape again when their mission is complete.
  • Escape pods feature fairly often in Star Wars Legends and Star Wars Expanded Universe. It's an option of last resort. If intact fleeing ships don't tractor them up during the retreat, then they are at the mercy of the victors.
    • In Isard's Revenge, Prince-Admiral Krennel decided to deliver the survivors of a small New Republic force to a neutral world if they swore not to fight him, because he was working on his PR.
    • Star of Empire, in Galaxy of Fear, is a luxury cruise starship that has escape pods for its passengers. Unfortunately, when the ship is evacuated Tash and Zak are left behind.
    • In Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy: Lesser Evil, Qilori explicitly took note of where the escape pods were as he started piloting the Kilji cruiser. Seeing the captain pick a fight with Thrawn heightened the urgency, and he dove for the pod as soon as the bridge crew was distracted by a Star Trek Shake.
  • Isaac Asimov's The Complete Adventures of Lucky Starr:
  • The Eschaton Series: In Singularity Sky, Rachel Mansour grows an Escape Pod in her stateroom aboard the New Republic's flagship, weakening the adjacent hull to allow a rather messy escape.
  • In Deathworld, Jason runs from Heavyworlder Kerk who, in the grip of irrational rage, is about to literally tear him apart unless he gets off the ship. The Escape Pod he uses to get away is designed to be idiot proof: initially it declines to do anything but the safest, gentlest maneuvers, making long-term survival against the ship's guns problematical.
  • In Collision With Chronos, Time Battleships have Escape Pods constructed deep within the ship. A foundering time ship suffers ... total existence failure, leaving only the Escape Pods, if they power up their tiny orthophase (reality) generators in time.
  • In Legends of Dune, Xavier Harkonnen's adopted brother commands a Ballista-class battleship is a battle with the Thinking Machines. They manage to drive the machines away, but then the cymeks show up. He decides to accerate ahead of the fleet in a true Leeroy Jenkins style, and, predictably, his Ballista is blown up. He manages to get to an escape pod, but the enemy picks it up first. They torture him for hours until he finally dies.
  • Ciaphas and Jurgen spend several weeks on board one in Death Or Glory when the ship they're on (which was ripped out of the Warp long before reaching planetary orbit) has a hull breach and they can't get out of the area before the emergency bulkheads close. They consider it to be rather spacious and well equipped (because there are two of them in a life pod meant to hold fifty), which allows Cain to spend most of his time training and Jurgen with his collection of "artistic engravings".
  • The escape pods of the Lensman universe are small FTL ships in their own right, so getting clear of the space disaster and surviving long enough to reach an inhabited world or be picked up by your side aren't much of an issue, thus getting around Cambias' points made above. They are, however, relatively slow, unarmed except for the personal weapons of their passengers & crew), and unarmoured against anything other than micrometeors and cosmic background radiation. This is problematic because they exist in the context of an enemy (Boskone) who takes no prisoners - except to torture them for information (or worse), or to sell into slavery.
  • The Conquerors Trilogy: In a variation, human spacecraft have individual lifepods that form out of unfolding metal plates around a person's usual station, meaning they don't even have to get up to board the pod. They can be ejected from the ship when it's about to be destroyed, either by enemy action or activating the Self-Destruct Mechanism to prevent hostiles from getting any useful information from the abandoned ship's computers.
  • Vorkosigan Saga has "bod pods", inflatable, single person, idiot proof life support modules for use by untrained personel in an emergency. Miles really dislikes them, because once you're stuffed inside one, you're stuck waiting helplessly for someone else to come rescue you.
  • Covered in this memorable exchange from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, when the characters find themselves trapped aboard a spaceship on course to crash-dive into the heart of a sun:
    Zaphod Beeblebrox: "Ford, how many escape capsules are there?"
    Ford Prefect: "None."
    Zaphod: "Did you count them?
    Ford: "Twice."
  • Ships in Honor Harrington carry escape pods which can be used to escape a ship that has suffered damage. However they are generally only provided for crew stationed close to the hull of the ship since under most circumstances crew further inside will either not have time to evacuate at all (if the reactors explode) or will have time to make an orderly evacuation using the ship's auxiliary small craft. In a nod to some of the obvious problems with the concept, it's mentioned that after a battle, the winning side is expected to pick up all escape pods, both their own and the enemies, because any pods not picked up immediately are highly unlikely ever to be found.
  • In Escape to Witch Mountain when Tia gets her memory back she recalls the spaceship her and Tony were on had problems and they had to make it to Earth on lifeboats, thus separating them from the rest of the refugees.
  • In John Hemry's The Lost Fleet series, John Geary's use of one that had a malfunctioning signal meant that he was located more than a century after using it. Leading, basically, to the entire rest of the series.
    • They are also used throughout the series for crewmembers to escape dangerous ships in hopes of being picked up by the other ships. Coming to the aid of an escape pod was one factor to point out that the Dancers were friendly to humans.
  • Vatta's War features a Command Pod which works as sort of an inversion: It is very durably built, and buried deep within the ship, being connected to the ship's different systems and crew departments. It is designed mainly to keep The Captain alive and in command despite severe damage to the ship, and proves durable enough to keep its occupant alive even with the complete destruction of the ship around it.
  • The Red Vixen Adventures Rolas attempts an Air Vent Escape from his prison cell to reach the life boats and escape the pirate ship he's being held hostage on. Later his captors stuff him into a one man pod described as "an ergonomic coffin" and fire him towards a Patrol base once his ransom is paid.
  • Spar, a short story by Kij Johnson. A woman and a Starfish Alien are crammed into the same tiny lifeboat, with nothing to do but have sex. And it's not a pleasant experience, but there's nothing else to do.
  • James White's non-Sector General novel Lifeboat details the events aboard inflatable life pods after an interplanetary liner suffers a catastrophic reactor and engine failure en route to Ganymede. The evacuation to the lifeboats is justified by radioactive contamination spreading throughout much of the ship, as well as by the eventual explosive failure of the reactor.
  • In First Contact by Murray Leinster, a human spaceship encounters the first alien spaceship. As each side knows nothing about the other species, neither can easily trust the other. The alien ship breaks the Mexican Standoff by ejecting a lifepod and retreating to a safe distance. This way they can open negotiations without either side risking their ship (just the poor guy who has to go over to the lifepod).
  • Averted in Brake by Poul Anderson, which takes place on a spacecraft which due to sabotage is on unstoppable course out of the Solar System.
    She carried no lifeboat. If you abandon ship at hyperbolic speeds, a small craft doesn't have engine enough to decelerate you before running out of reaction mass. Here, in the big cold darkness beyond Mars, there was no escaping this vessel.
  • The Lifeboat Mutiny, by Robert Sheckley. A couple of planetary surveyors purchase a second-hand lifeboat which unfortunately is not happy about being reallocated for a different purpose than the one it was built for.
  • Even in The Expanse some spaceships are apparently equipped with escape pods, at least Agatha King in Caliban's War had one that someone tried to escape on, but was promptly shot to keep the protomolecule from escaping that ship.
  • The Murderbot Diaries. In "Fugitive Telemetry", Murderbot plans a hostage rescue of some refugees imprisoned on board a spacecraft, only to find its evac suit has an automated transponder that will give away its location to the bounty hunters on board. So it decides to use a life tender on the preserved museum ship, which turns out to be basically an airtight bag with rudimentary navigation and drive unit. It actually proves useful as a way of evacuating the hostages without having to board the spacecraft, but no-one (including Murderbot) is all that happy about using it.
  • The War Against the Chtorr. When the engines on Lizard's helicopter gunship cut out in a dust storm, the entire cabin turns into this as she ejects the rotor blades and they float down to the ground on a parachute.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Babylon 5, Starfury cockpits can be ejected to serve as escape pods. The odds of being picked up aren't all that high. Other human and alien craft probably have similar mechanisms.
    • It is mentioned that various warships carry escape pods, but it is very rare for a ship's crew to actually have a chance to use them in battle. Once a ship's defenses are penetrated, it is not uncommon to have them hammered into burning hulks within seconds, given the amounts of firepower that get thrown around in space combat.
  • Blake's 7:
    • In "Deliverence", a tiny spacecraft is spinning out of control down to a planet, so the crew eject in two unpowered survival modules. Having witnessed the incident, the crew of the Liberator go down to look for them.
      Gan: Do you know exactly what we're looking for? Because I don't think I've ever seen an impact life capsule.
      Jenna: They're bullet-shaped, built to be energy absorbing. Theoretically they could free fall from the edge of the atmosphere onto solid rock without even bruising the people inside.
      Cally: Is there a life-support system?
      Jenna: Basic respirator, that's about all.
    • Season C starts with our heroes abandoning the Liberator during a space battle. As the teleport is damaged, they have to use the life capsules, leading to Party Scattering.
  • Cowboy Bebop (2021): In "Venus Pop", Jet and Spike are on a freighter searching for a Mad Bomber when space debris destroys the cockpit.
    Jet: We've got to get off this ship before it blows. Help me look for an escape pod.
    Spike: Are you serious — on this bucket?
    Jet: What piece-of-crap ship doesn't have an escape pod?
    Spike: Your piece-of-crap ship.
  • Doctor Who: Multiple:
    • "42": Martha and guest character Riley get stuck in an escape pod at one point.
    • "Silence in the Library": Mentioned but not seen. The ship the Lux expedition used to reach the Library had one of these which Miss Evangelista mistook for a bathroom, forcing the crew to go back for her. Apparently, this happened twice.
    • "The Tsuranga Conundrum": The ambulance ship has two life pods, which swiftly get jettisoned when the alien creature attacking the ship goes for them first. Chief medic Astos is on board one, and dies when it crashes in the Asteroid Thicket outside.
    • The TARDIS herself has an escape pod, the Jade Pagoda. A mini TARDIS that while still bigger on the inside, only has a console room with emergency supplies and is programmed to find the nearest safe planet if not piloted.
  • The Firefly-class ships are equipped with two shuttles that can be used to abandon the ship (or as an alcove for the on-board Companion). In the episode "Out of Gas", the whole team barring Mal use them to escape the Serenity after the engine breaks beyond repair. They then return to meet whatever end together with their captain.
  • For All Mankind: When Apollo 23 explodes on the launchpad killing 12 ground crew, the escape rocket is shown carrying the astronauts in the command module to safety, though because it lands on the beach instead of in the ocean they are still injured.
  • Intergalactic: Verona flees the ship this way in the season one finale.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000:
    • In "Mitchell", Joel finally escapes the Satellite of Love in a conveniently forgotten one of these. It was hidden in a box of hamdingers, and ''nobody'' likes hamdingers. Its name? The "Deus ex Machina".
    • In "Space Mutiny", Tom and Crow crash a couple more, which nearly makes Mike explode:
      Mike: Don't you think we should have used the escape pods for escape purposes?!
      Crow: What's he on about?
      Servo: Oh, you mean... escape from here? Boy, is my face red!
    • Subverted in "Final Justice" when Mike thinks that he can escape after another Joe Don Baker movie, just as Joel had, but it turns out that he's sitting in an empty water heater. Tom and Crow offer him hot cocoa as consolation.
  • The Orville uses these as plot devices at times, such as how Ed and Teleya end up stranded on a planet together after the latter's ship blew up.
  • Red Dwarf plays with this one.
    • The episode "Rimmerworld" features Rimmer using his crewmates to jump into an escape pod behind a Simulant which is attempting to attack them. The other crew members use another method of escape and survive. Rimmer uses the escape pod and, as it's faster than the ship he was flying on, ends up falling into a wormhole.
    • In numerous episodes, the smaller exploration craft Blue Midget and Starbug are used as escape pods when the Dwarf itself is in danger. Starbug, being a mining support vehicle, also has at least one "ore sample pod" that Rimmer uses as an escape pod to return to Red Dwarf on one occasion. (Presumably it doesn't have life support.)
    • Starbug was later said to have a single escape pod, which Rimmer wanted to use to escape the ship when it was controlled by a computer virus and was about to crash into a moon:
      Lister: Rimmer, the escape pod is not an option.
      Rimmer: Why not?
      Lister: It escaped. Last Thursday. I was having a few beers. I didn't bother to get up, so I used the release mechanism as a bottle opener.
    • Other episodes use the arrival of an escape pod as a plot point, where they usually contain an important character — except for the one that turned out be a smegging garbage pod.
  • Stargate SG-1 featured these on a number of occasions. Goa'uld escape pods look like ancient Egyptian sarcophagi... and are just as cramped. On one occasion, an escape pod was used by a character to get away from a murderous Big Bad who was pursuing him on a small ship; on another, two characters hid in escape pods without launching them to survive when their ship's hull got punctured.
  • Star Trek:
    • Ships from Star Trek: The Next Generation on were depicted with numerous lifepods that could be launched in the event of a disaster. According to the technical manuals, they could be docked together to pool the air, fuel and supplies, but didn't even have impulse power. Their top speed could get them across a star system in about eight months, which was also their outside limit of consumables. This would make the crew virtually helpless in most situations where they weren't already accompanied by another ship which could pick them up.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
      • The Action Prologue of the pilot episode "Emissary" ends with Benjamin Sisko's view from a life pod as it ejects from the Saratoga moments before it explodes during the Battle of Wolf 359.
      • In "The Changing Face of Evil", a Big Bad orders her Dragon not to Sink the Lifeboats from a destroyed Federation ship, so that the escape pods can make it home and spread fear of the Dominion. Most of the USS Valiant's lifepods are destroyed as soon as they launch. It's unclear if it was intentional or not, given that the ship was being pummeled by a Dominion warship.
      • Worf is the lone survivor of a Klingon ship's destruction and is found in an escape pod after several days adrift. This is notable because common Fanon was that Klingon ships did not have escape pods because they would prefer to die in combat (it's more complicated than that). Fans will often joke that this means that Klingons have escape pods, but most are probably used as broom closets.
    • Star Trek: Voyager: In "Workforce (Part 2)", Voyager is attacked by Salvage Pirates who want the crew alive as slave labor. The escape pods are ejected but turn out to be empty and Booby Trapped, destroying the pirate spaceships.
    • Star Trek: Enterprise:

    Tabletop Games 
  • GURPS Spaceships has this as an option for control rooms on smaller ships. One can jettison the control room at a moment's notice, letting the bridge crew drift to safety.
  • Space 1889: Averted. Ship design is realistic and escape pods do not exist for ether flyers or for sky ships. There aren't even practical parachutes.
  • Surprisingly for such a Crapsack Galaxy, Imperial Navy ships in Warhammer 40,000 do have escape pods, referred to as "Saviour pods". They're mainly used to abandon ships that have suffered catastrophic reactor damage and are about to explode in a spectacular ball of fiery death which may (and probably will) result in the creation of a temporary, gigantic rift in the fabric of space-time which leads to hell. Being very far away at that point would be very wise.
  • Ships in Traveller sometimes had Life Boats, but these were mostly just shuttles that would be able to make landings, or zoom away from a battle (hopefully unnoticed).
    • All ships in Traveller (at least the legit ones), have Rescue Bubbles (also called Life Pods, Life Bubbles, Rescue Pods...) which are pretty much what Jim says in the trope introduction. They are inflatable (but hard when fully inflated), pressurized, and somewhat radiation-proof balls that usually come with some provisions, a rescue beacon, and life support and are even renewable energy powered (although they can't really move in space). They allow the user to survive being on a spaceship when life-support fails, and can easily be dumped into space if the spaceship is being hammered so much that being on it runs the risk of getting hit, or if conditions on the ship are really that bad (as in, falling beams everywhere, fires, explosions, etc.). They are also convinient because ships built for rescue can scoop them up enmasse. Rescue pods are also signs of surrender, and firing on them is really frowned upon. It's much more profitable to pick them up and ransom the crew anyway. Even so, rescue pods are instructed to only be dumped out the airlock in absolute emergencies, in most cases it's better to broadcast a surrender and hide in one on-ship. (Or if you are a non-crew passenger, you are usually instructed by the crew to hide in a rescue bubble if the ship comes under fire.
    • One Double Adventure (Marooned and Marooned Alone) had the PCs landing on a planet using them after escaping from a passenger liner in orbit.
    • The FASA adventure Action Aboard: Adventures on the King Richard had a section on how they would be used to evacuate passengers in the event of a disaster.
  • Eclipse Phase has life bubbles, similar to the Traveller example, above. Given the Eclipse Phase writers' fetish for elaborating on how amazing everything would be in their post-scarcity future, said life bubbles naturally allow for a level existence inside them which would be considered quite good by most modern day humans - indefinitely. Of course, to the transhuman residents of the setting, it is still abject squalor and so they would rather be rescued.
  • Spelljammer has "Wreckboat", but a dedicated escape craft is luxury, since its engine is the same as on ships proper, where it's the most expensive part. So usually if a ship has any launches to use as shuttles, they'll double as lifeboats.
  • Star Fleet Battles Captain's module K1 Fast Patrol Ships. When Fast Patrol ships are about to be destroyed, their crew eject in self-contained survival pods that broadcast a homing signal.
  • Star Frontiers module SF0 Crash on Volturnus. After their ship is captured by the Star Devil's pirates, the PCs abandon ship in a lifeboat and use it to land on the planet Volturnus.
  • Starblazer Adventures, based on the 1980's British science fiction Comic Book. Small ships such as fighters had ejection seats, while larger ships had escape pods.
  • Role Master, Spacemaster Privateer campaign setting. Life pods are small, five person ships that only have maneuvering thrusters and are usable only if in orbit. They have heat shields and parachutes for atmospheric re-entry.
  • SPI's Universe. The Corco Omega was an emergency craft stored in an escape pod attached to a larger ship. It could hold a pilot and four passengers and was capable of interstellar travel.
  • It Came from the Late, Late Show II adventure "Bjorn on the Bayou, or Escape from Alkatrazz XII". If the PCs manage to capture the Big Bad Warden Skrank instead of killing him, he will get away using an escape pod while being taken back to Space patrol Headquarters on their ship for trial.
  • BattleTech's starships feature escape pods in two flavors - escape pods, and life boats - each with room for 6 people. Escape pods are capable of planetary re-entry, whereas life boats must be picked up by other starships as they lack the structural strength survive re-entry. Life boats have enough food and water supply for 16 days and life support for 30, and is solar powered. Escape pods have thrusters for minor course corrections, have supplies for 14 days, and while they can make planetary landings, it's more of a controlled crash as they lack landing gear and are only slowed down by parachutes. Aerospace Fighters have self-contained Ejection Seat so pilots can survive long enough to be picked up by the mother ship in space, and some BattleMechs utilize the "Full head ejection system", where the entire head assembly is jettisoned rather than a piddly unprotected ejection seat, allowing the Mechwarrior to survive in environments that are otherwise lethal, such as interplanetary space, a planet with a toxic or oxygen-poor atmosphere, or a battlefield where chemical or biological weapons have been used.

    Video Games 
  • Allegiance (2000), a multiplayer Space Sim / Real-Time Strategy game from Microsoft, has escape pods fill an essential role in gameplay. Whenever a pilot's ship is destroyed, they are left at that spot in a small, slow, fragile, unarmed escape pod and must then make it to the nearest base or friendly ship before their oxygen runs out. If this pod is shot and destroyed by the enemy, the player is immediately respawned back at base, and can get a new ship and re-join the action; thus the enemy is discouraged from Sinking The Life Boats, and getting shot down actually takes you out of the action for some time, without taking you out of the game.
  • The "Vaus" from Arkanoid is an escape craft, though it has more mobility than your standard escape pod.
  • Near the climax of Bulletstorm you need to make use of an Escape Pod.
  • The mining ship 'Ishimura' in Dead Space has several, not that they helped, in fact one of them led to an entire military ship being destroyed.
  • Dead Space 2: not content with being fired on a rocket chair and falling though space Isaac later ejects himself from The Ishimura and crashes back into the sprawl.
  • The third Don't Escape game features an escape pod which you can use to get off the ship before the damaged life support system fails. Given the name of the game, this is clearly not a good idea — although exactly why not doesn't become clear until near the end.
  • In Escape Velocity under strict play, the escape pods you can purchase at outfitters are the only way to avoid suffering permadeath if your ship starts to break up. Oh, and you'll have to issue the escape command manually... unless you buy the auto-eject feature for an additional fee.
  • EVE Online has the capsules, which function as escape pods. However, they do have warp drives (albeit weak ones) and their main purpose is not to function as escape pods, but rather as the control system (similar to the entry plugs in Neon Genesis Evangelion). Both normal and capsuleer-controlled spacecraft also havenote  escape pods for the crew; however, escape pods deep within a ship can only separate as the ship falls apart.
  • Final Fantasy VII... Even though it's the first rocket to send a human into space, they designed it with an escape pod.
  • One event in FTL: Faster Than Light has you come across a Mantis escape pod that your crew can risk opening to get a Mantis or a human crewmate... or lose one of your crewmates to a frenzied Mantis who will then attack the rest of your crew.
  • Gratuitous Space Battles has Escape Pods: in the wake of a pitched battle there will be a sad stream of pods fleeing from the de-orbiting hulks that used to be proud battlewagons.
  • The opening level of Halo: Combat Evolved ends with you escaping the Pillar of Autumn on the last "lifeboat."
  • Henry Stickmin Series: The Toppat Orbital Station from the sixth game has multiple of these. A bit more practical than most other examples, since the station is orbiting the Earth rather than traveling through space, and the pods are only used to quickly return to Earth in case of an emergency. The "Valiant Hero" example has Charles and Henry try to get on board the last one, but a Toppat tries to fight them for it resulting in only Henry making it out alive
  • Kerbal Space Program has the Launch Escape System, a small rocket that can be used to launch the command pod away from an exploding craft. It is modeled after the similar system used by the Apollo missions.
  • The opening chapter screen in Marathon shows you hurtling toward the eponymous colony ship in an escape pod. Where the pod comes from is, literally, All There in the Manual. (It's from a shuttle whose life support was compromised.)
  • Mass Effect:
    • Mass Effect 2 kicks off with the player character failing to make it to an escape pod in time, although most of the other crew manage to escape.
    • In Mass Effect 3, Shepard suggests using escape pods while escaping a geth dreadnaught under fire. Geth teammate Legion explains that the geth have no use for such things, being a software species who can transfer their programs via remote signal. They escape on a small fighter, with Shepard's team crammed into the cargo hold.
  • Master of Orion 2 allows to develop Survival Pods and equip ships with these, which allows a hero to survive the ship's destruction if the whole fleet isn't destroyed too.
  • In Nexus: The Jupiter Incident, any ship that is damaged beyond a certain point is considered lost, at which point it will start launching escape pods. If it is a ship from the player's fleet, then the percentage of escape pods that are collected determines if the player keeps the same experienced crew for the new ship. It is assumed that the captain always survives. If the ship is destroyed outright, then no escape pods are launched.
  • All playable ships in No Man's Sky are equipped with (and start out as) Lifepods, which serve as this should a ship be destroyed.
  • Oolite has purchasable Escape Pods that essentially function as an extra life; when you use one, you're automatically transported back to the system station, with a shiny new vessel that's identical to the one you just lost. Other ships will also deploy them sometimes; you can pick them up with your cargo scoop and deliver the passengers to a station for bounty or insurance money (or you could just shoot them down).
  • In Outer Wilds, among the Nomai artifacts scattered across your home system are the escape pods they originally made planetfall in. Even hundreds of thousands of years later (and even after the pods' passengers disembarked and went on to build a thriving civilization), the pods are still broadcasting distress signals from beacons sending beams of light skyward outside them. Two pods are easy to find on the surface of Ember Twin and Brittle Hollow, respectively, but Nomai records indicate that there was a third pod - unfortunately, it got trapped in Dark Bramble immediately after launching from their Vessel, which is similarly entangled even deeper inside the place's twisted physics.
  • Perfect Dark shows Air Force One with an escape pod (like a couple film examples above).
  • Interactive Fiction classic Planetfall starts with a sequence where you have to get into the escape pod.
  • Prey (2017): Talos 1 has 19 escape pods, of which only two actually work. One can be used for a Nonstandard Game Over or to actually escape the station after arming the self-destruct sequence.
  • Used occasionally in the Ratchet & Clank series like in Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal when Captain Qwark escaped in one from the Leviathan.
  • The original, default starting scenario of Rimworld has a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits falling to the surface of a Conveniently Close Planet in these after the Sleeper Starship they were travelling onboard suffered some sort of disaster.
  • An early level in Ring Runner: Flight of the Sages is an endless onslaught of enemies which you can survive only thanks to your ship being equipped with a tiny pod with stealth capabilities.
  • You begin Robot City in one, having crash-landed on a distant planet which plays host to the titular city. This pod comes complete with food, drinks, an entertainment library, and an AI therapist named DARLA.
  • In Schizm: Mysterious Journey, Sam Mainey and Hannah Grant used these after their ship, the ECS Angel had malfunctioned when trying to contact the disappeared science team on the planet Argilus. They each land on opposite sides of the planet, and the first goal of the game is to regain radio contact with each other.
  • In Sonic Adventure 2, Maria launched Shadow from the ARK aboard an escape pod. Another one is used by Eggman in an almost-successful attempt to kill the title character.
    • Dr. Eggman's iconic Egg Mobile serves multiple purposes as his primary mode of transportation, a control device to slot into his various machines when it comes time for a boss fight, and of course an escape pod when Sonic beats him.
    • In Sonic Colors, one of Eggman's public announcements in Aquarium Park advises park guests to locate the nearest escape pod in an emergency. Subverted in that every escape pod except for Eggman's is still back on Earth being assembled in the factory.
  • When ships in Space Pirates and Zombies explode, they launch a flurry of one-person, drum-shaped capsules. They are woefully inefcicient, acheiving Minimum Safe Distance from the exploding ship and floating there for about a minute, whereupon they explode. The sequel gives them a major upgrade, however.
  • Used several times in Space Quest I: The Sarien Encounter series, being as the game's a send-up of sci-fi tropes. The first thing you have to go is get Roger the hell off the Arcada without getting vaped by the Sariens. Later, he steals their escape pod after setting the MacGuffin to blow. Second game has him stealing one to escape Vohaul's space station. A Have a Nice Death in the fifth one is him being expelled from Star Con Academy via escape pod.
  • Weaponized in Space Tyrant. The Bzzzerk Union has an upgrade for their Destroyers that, while called "Escape Pods," in practice launches a swarm of Space Fighters when the ship is destroyed.
  • The Stanley Parable features one in one of the game's Multiple Endings, aptly dubbed the "Escape Pod Ending." The path is triggered by derailing yourself from the "intended" narratives through a deliberately obtuse method, resulting in the game entering an eerie "frozen" state where the map opens for you to freely explore but interactions stop functioning. The only available path left is a staircase in an office complex leading to an "Escape Pod Launch Bay". The game abruptly resets right before you can enter the pod, which itself remains completely unexplained.
  • In Star Control 2 your Precursor ship gets an escape pod when you've freed the Chmmr and you have the Utwig Bomb, the Talking Pet, and know where's the Ur-Quan Sa-Matra. Your ship has been transformed by the Chmmr, literally speaking, into a bomb with thrusters. And one that can give a HUGE bang.
  • While only referenced in normal gameplay, StarCraft II has the Hercules dropship equipped with those. This allows the cargo to survive the transport's destruction, although the units still take some damage.
  • Star Fox: Assault: The Great Fox's bridge is revealed to serve as this function at the end of the game, allowing Peppy and ROB64 to survive after they sacrifice the ship so Fox and the others can enter the Aparoid Homeworld's core to destroy the queen.
  • Shows up early in Star Ocean: Till the End of Time.
  • In Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron, escape pods play a fairly significant role. They can be used for quick deployment of troops from capital ships, or simply to escape if the ship's core is destroyed.
  • Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic kicks off with the player character making his/her way to the escape pods when the ship s/he serves on comes under Sith attack.
  • In Subnautica, you start the game jumping into an lifepod after the Aurora is downed in a mysterious incident over Planet 4546B. Your floating lifepod serves as your one-room starting base, providing you with shelter, some basic supplies, and a crafting station as you adapt to the alien ocean around you. After you repair some of the lifepod's systems, you'll receive periodic radio messages from the Aurora's other lifepods, though by the time you reach them, all you'll find is a PDA describing what happened to the passengers and a data box containing a new schematic vital to your survival.
  • Reaching the escape pods is also one of the goals the player pursues in the original System Shock... although this plan doesn't work out too well.
  • Reaching an escape pod is the goal of many of the crewmen in System Shock 2. When the player finally reaches a pod himself rather than use it to escape, he crashes it into The Many to take it out from the inside.
  • At the beginning of Episode 5 of Tales from the Borderlands, as Helios is falling, Hyperion employees are taking whatever escape pods they can to escape the station before all of it crumbles into space, except for one pod that's broken and won't close all the way. Rhys and Loader Bot are cornered by turret gunfire that Jack is sending at them, and Loader Bot tells Rhys that they need to leave before pushing him out into the line of fire and using himself as a shield so he's not hit as they make a run for it. When they get to the broken escape pod, Loader Bot pushes Rhys inside and uses his robot strength to force the doors shut. Rhys protests, saying that it can't fit them both, but Loader Bot just says that he knows, and fist-bumps the pod as it activates, floating away into space, with Rhys pounding on the glass and screaming as Loader Bot is held down and shot.
  • Unreal and Unreal II: The Awakening feature escape pods in the ending sequences. The first is to escape from a planet of doom, the second is to escape a ship about to crash into a star.
  • Vega Strike has escape pods equipped with FTL drives, but with such a weak reactor and thrusters that running to a nearby base or ship is pain anyway. There are also Rescue missions where the player should collect with Tractor Beam a NPC pod assaulted by vengeful opponents and deliver the pilot to a nearby planet or base.
  • the white chamber has one at the epilogue.
  • The Xtended mod for X3: Terran Conflict adds escape pods; corvettes and larger ships will launch up to a dozen escape pods upon destruction or bailing. The pods will fly away at incredible speed, pulling evasive actions, before using their jump drives to escape safely. Fighter and freighter pilots don't get it so easy, and either go down with their ship or jump out in their spacesuit and try to EVA to the safety of a space station. Several scripts also allow the player to flee their ship in an escape pod, useful for dead-is-dead mode


    Western Animation 
  • They showed up in Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers a couple times. Most notably, in "Phoenix" where Eliza puts her kids in one, has to go back for supplies (it had enough for two people, not three), and is attacked. She orders it to blast off when she's attacked by one of the pirates. A second example is when the Rangers use one to evacuate from an exploding Crown base in "Queen's Gun".
  • Star Wars: The Bad Batch: Omega uses one to get away from Cad Bane and Fennec Shand. Inverted, however, as the pod has gone several years without any maintenance, causing it to break down mid-flight. Luckily, her big brothers were there to catch her.
  • One shows up at the end of Family Guy episode "Holy Crap", conveniently docked onto the side of the house. The family uses it to escape when Peter's mother shows up needing a place to crash.
  • Final Space: In episode 3, Quinn is forced to use one of these when the ship she is on is destroyed by a gravitational disturbance.
  • The Galaxy Trio episode "Galaxy Trio and the Sleeping Planet". At the end of the episode the space pirate Krag escapes his ship in a smaller ship.
  • The Watchtower satellite in Justice League has these. In the finale of the original run (pre-Unlimited), the tower is occupied by Thanagarian invaders, only for the heroes to retake it and dump them in the escape pods. Batman takes the opportunity to launch his allies to safety as well, as he's planning to manually pilot the tower into the Thanagarians' Doomsday Device.
  • Cars in the NASCAR Unlimited Series races in NASCAR Racers featured emergency pods that could be used to escape if the driver was in danger. Normally, these were only to be used to get the driver safely away from the track in the event of a crash, but this didn't stop Flyer from using his to continue racing during the unofficial anything-goes race Stunts had co-sponsored. There was also one car that did not have an escape system, a prototype that would later become the basis for the cars late in the series (which did have the escape systems).
  • Parodied in The Simpsons episode "Homer Goes to College". Mr. Burns has one hidden in his office and uses it to escape the plant during a meltdown. It's built for two, but he won't let Smithers in because he likes to put his feet up. However, the rockets burn out almost immediately, causing the pod to crash into the parking lot and painfully bounce him down the street.
  • Steven Universe:
    • Peridot uses an escape pod in "Jail Break". Later, Pearl is able to use it to track her position.
    • "Stuck Together": Steven and Lars are nearly able to escape Aquamarine's ship in its escape pod thanks to Topaz, but Aquamarine finds out and forces Topaz back into line by threatening to separate her components forever by reporting them to the Diamonds.

    Real Life 
  • Two Soyuz spacecraft (the same ships used to carry crew and supplies to the ISS in the first place) are always docked at the International Space Station and can function as escape pods in case of an emergency. Each one can hold three crew members. On two occasions, the crew took refuge in these ships when danger from space debris loomed. Originally NASA planned to build a dedicated escape vehicle capable of taking the whole crew, the X-38, but - predictably - this was cancelled after early tests.
    • During the Skylab program, a modified Apollo capsule containing seats for five crew was kept prepped in case the station crew was stranded.
  • Modern rockets carrying astronauts (i.e. Soyuz, Apollo, Orion) also have an crew escape system that can rip the crew module away from the rest of the rocket in case something goes wrong during launch. It was only used once in practice, by Soyuz-T-10.
  • In the Apollo 13 incident, the Lunar Module essentially functioned as a makeshift escape pod for much of the flight.
  • After the accidents of the space shuttle Challenger and later the Columbia there were plans to equip the remaining shuttles with escape pods or even the ability to eject the entire cabin. However those plans were abandoned, and with the retirement of the remaining space shuttles the whole issue became moot.
    • It should be pointed out that the conversion of the Cabin to an ejection system is not that insane of an idea. During the Challenger disaster, the cabin of the orbiter (The Part that looks like a Plane) was ejected from the explosion of the external fuel tank (The Big Orange thing the Orbiter is strapped to) and was found intact. Further at least three of the personal egress air packs were turned on (one of which had to be turned on by another person) and Pilot Mike Smith had engaged several switches from their usual launch position (these switches were spring-locked to prevent accidental movement, meaning that he had to disable the lock, flip the switch and reengage). The lack of structural damage also indicated that the crew probably had enough pressurized oxygen to survive the entire descent.
  • Gemini, and initially the Space Shuttle, were equipped with ejection seats. Notably, the Gemini system had only been tested in a (non-reactive) pure nitrogen atmosphere. It had never been tested for the full-oxygen atmospheres used in NASA capsules before the Apollo 1 fire that killed the entire crew. One of the pilots for the Gemini 6 mission (which aborted after an unexpected primary engine failure 1.5 seconds after ignition) later remarked on this:
    Thomas P. Stafford: So it turns out what we would have seen, had we had to [eject], would have been two Roman candles going out, because we were 15 or 16 psi, pure oxygen, soaking in that for an hour and a half. You remember the tragic fire we had at the Cape. (...) Jesus, with that fire going off and that, it would have burned the suits. Everything was soaked in oxygen. So thank God.
    • So was the Vostok - since the ship did not include any cushioning for a soft touch-down on land, it was standard modus operandi - but this fact was kept secret because a landing with ejection did not count with several aeronautics associations. The Soviet Shuttle knock-off Buran was to have ejection seats as well, but instead it flew unmanned.
  • Several "lunar escape systems" were designed for use in long-duration Apollo missions, in case of a failure of the lunar module. The astronauts would be exposed and have to rely on their suits, so they would only have had four hours available between launch and a space-walk return to the CSM.
  • The most insane design of them all is perhaps the General Electric MOOSE (Man Out Of Space Easiest, later Manned Orbital Operations Safety Equipment). A suitcase-sized package that included a deorbiting engine, a parachute, a large plastic bag with flexible heat shield, and canisters of foam that the astronaut would use to fill up their ersatz descent vehicle. Their customers were not that crazy.
  • Although not a space vehicle, the General Dynamics F-111 has an escape pod for the two-man crew. Given that the F-111 was designed to deliver Nuclear Weapons, ejecting into a highly radioactive area might not be healthy for the pilots.
    • A similar system was proposed for the B-1 Lancer. Although fitted to the prototype B-1A was ultimately scrapped in the production B-1B. The XB-70 also had a similar system for each pilot that would encase the pilot before ejection. The system was used when the 2nd prototype crashed due to a mid-air collision with an F-104 Starfighter.
    • It should be noted that the reason such systems even exist is because of the speeds each of these aircraft are capable of. At super-sonic speeds, ejecting into such an on-rush of air can play havoc on a human body. Despite this fact however, the fastest conventional aircraft in the world, the SR-71, does not use a capsule ejection system. Instead, the crew wear what amounts to a space-suit to protect them from a high-altitude ejectionnote .
    • Later versions of the Mach 2-capable Convair B-58 Hustler jet bomber has escape capsules for each of its three crew members. For the pilot, the plane's controls are part of the capsule's construction, so the plane can still be flown even with the capsules closed. That way, the capsule can be closed if a possible danger requiring immediate aircraft egress can be foreseen then reopened if ejection proves unnecessary. The escape capsule can also be used in case of a possible decompression event, allowing the plane to be flown to a lower altitude, where the capsule is opened. Video of this system being designed and tested can be found here.
  • Incidentally, modern survival craft, especially those found on large commercial ships, are often fully enclosed vessels which appear very capsule-shaped, making them literal life pods. The variety found on oil tankers and platforms are also designed to be quickly ejected fully-manned from the deck of the (possibly on fire and soon to explode) vessel.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Life Pod


The Digidestineds' Plan

When Cody refuses to use the only available escape pod to get out of a flooded underwater oil rig, the other Digidestined agree to draw straws to see who gets to escape. Sort of...

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / DrawingStraws

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