lifeship n.

an emergency spaceship; lifeboat n.


  • 1940 H. Walton Moon of Exile in Astounding Science-Fiction Aug. 125/1 page image Harry Walton bibliography

    Sharon was still by the control panel when the lifeship whistled down through the upper reaches of Callisto’s thin atmosphere.

  • 1941 H. Walton Doom Ship in Astounding Science Fiction Jan. 141/1 Harry Walton

    Pedersen was hauling a bulky, burlap-wrapped package aboard the lifeship—four similar ones lay on the floor just outside the tube.

  • 1944 G. O. Smith in Astounding Science Fiction May 10/2 George O. Smith

    We limped in using a jury-rigged line from the lifeship’s alphatron and made a something-slightly-less than a crash landing here on Pluto.

  • 1945 ‘W. Long’ Nomad in Astounding Science Fiction Feb. 81/2 George O. Smith

    He dropped from the larger ship in the tiniest of lifeships, and taking the barrier-generator with him, he let the Loki drive across the System towards Mephisto, while he in the lifeship gave a short, ten-minute thrust at 10-Gs and set up the barrier again.

  • 1946 ‘J. MacDougal’ in Astounding Science Fiction Oct. 40/1

    Object may be to mask escape of lifeship, but no such vessel detected as yet.

  • 1950 J. Blish in Astounding Science Fiction Dec. 11/1 James Blish

    Well, there’s only one place where a lifeship could go out here, and that’s the wild star.

  • 1954 G. O. Smith Spacemen Lost in Startling Stories Fall 53/1 George O. Smith

    Commander Hatch looked down at his feet. ‘I was in a space can once,’ he said. ‘They don’t last forever. I—’ He let his voice trail away. Wilson looked into their faces. The cold, bleak fact was so clear in their faces that he could not ignore it. He was forced to recognize the fact that a lifeship is no spacecraft. A lifeship is a flimsy tin can, as spaceworthy as an open raft on the broad ocean, as spaceworthy as an umbrella in a windstorm.

  • 1973 J. R. Gregory & R. Price Tomorrow People in the Visitor 87 Julian R. Gregory Roger Price

    Then we’ll tell him that we accept his proposal, and let him take us to the life-ship. Once we have examined the engine, we should be able to see whether or not it is in working order.

  • 1976 H. Harrison & G. Dickson Lifeboat (1977) 2

    ‘To a lifeship!’ brayed the Albenareth crewman, almost buzzing the human words. ‘Turn about. Go forward! Not to the stern.’

  • 1991 G. Bear & S. M. Stirling Man Who Would Be Kzin in L. Niven et al. Man-Kzin Wars IV 272 Greg Bear S. M. Stirling bibliography

    They cut loose the kzin lifeship, with Halloran inside, five hours later, and then turned a shielded ion drive against their orbital path to drop inward and lose themselves in the Belt.

  • 2012 ‘K. DeLake’ Assassins in Love xxiv. 142 page image Kristine Kathryn Rusch bibliography

    Interstellar cruisers had learned through their own disasters to have twice the number of emergency lifeships on board than they needed, ostensibly because one part of the ship might be impossible to reach. But in reality, they wanted to show that they had no liability should something go horribly, awfully wrong.

Research requirements

antedating 1940

Earliest cite

Harry Walton, "Moon of Exile"

Research History
Michael Quinion submitted a 1991 cite from "The Man Who Would be Kzin" by Greg Bear and S.M. Stirling.
Treesong submitted a cite from a 1977 reprint of Harry Harrison and Gordon Dickson's "The Lifeship".
Malcolm Farmer checked the 1975 magazine version and it uses "lifeboat" throughout instead of "lifeship".
Enoch Forrester submitted a 1944 cite from George O. Smith's "Latent Image".
Ben Ostrowsky submitted a 1973 cite from Julian Gregory and Roger Price's "The Tomorrow People in The Visitor".
Enoch Forrester submitted a cite from a reprint of James Blish's "Earthman, Come Home"; Mike Christie verified the cite in the 1950 first magazine appearance.
Mike Christie submitted a 1946 cite from John MacDougal's "Chaos, Coordinated".
Mike Christie submitted a 1941 cite from Harry Walton's "Doom Ship". Mike Christie submitted a 1940 cite from Harry Walton's "Moon of Exile".
Ben Ostrowsky submitted a 2012 cite from Kristine Kathryn Rusch, writing pseudonymously.

Last modified 2021-08-14 00:13:50
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.