What is an Escape Pod?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 27 February 2020
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An escape pod is a form of craft designed specifically to allow one or more people to effectively escape a larger vehicle in case of emergency or disaster. While these types of capsules have rarely been implemented in real world designs for vehicles, they are quite popular in works of science fiction. There have, however, been certain instances in which escape pods have been utilized or implemented in actual cases of vehicular design. An escape pod has also occasionally been created using crafts that were not initially designed for that purpose, to ensure that people in an emergency situation are able to escape to safety.

Although rarely seen in real world use, an escape pod is often included in designs for fantastical or speculative vehicles and vessels in works of science fiction. This is especially true for any work that includes large, multi-passenger vehicles that travel in outer space for great lengths of time. The opening sequence of the first Star Wars film famously features an escape pod used by several characters to escape a large space ship that is under attack. Other fictional works often include escape pods and similar crafts for orbiting space stations, subterranean living modules, and undersea research facilities.


There are some real world applications, however, in which an escape pod has been designed as part of a large vehicle or vessel. A number of Russian submarines have been designed with escape pods to allow crew members to more effectively evacuate the submarine in case of disaster or damage to the vessel that would otherwise condemn those aboard to an unfortunate demise. Supersonic aircraft have also been designed by numerous countries with an escape pod. Escape pods, rather than ejection seats, are necessary because the high altitudes and speeds at which these crafts travel prohibit the use of an unprotected ejection.

An improvised escape pod was also utilized by the crew members of the American space craft used during the 13th Apollo mission. After a disastrous explosion damaged the main craft, the crew evacuated to the lunar module that was intended for use in reaching the surface of the moon. The astronauts were able to use the module as an escape pod, using fuel reserves to alter their trajectory and then used the module to abandon the damaged craft and eventually return to the Earth’s surface. This event may have inspired many of the science fiction writers who later included escape pods in the designs and descriptions of futuristic space craft.


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