NASA Designed Space Escape Pods That Were Never Used. Here's Why.

A lifeboat to get back home.
Derya Ozdemir

Have you ever wondered why there hasn't been an "escape pod" mechanism employed in space to ensure crew safety? After all, keeping the crew safe has long been a priority in space engineering, and works of science fictions are filled with such vehicles. No one would like to be stuck in a failing ship during a catastrophic accident, so naturally, there hasn't been a shortage of ideas or engineering either.

An ejection escape system has been discussed many times for many shuttles, especially after the Challenger and Columbia tragedies, with great interest. In fact, engineers developed a solution in the past called the X-38. The vehicle was not designed as a "space taxi" to transport crews to and from the ISS, but rather as a lifeboat to return people to Earth. It was small enough to fit inside the shuttle's payload bay and would have been connected to the ISS semi-permanently. It was, however, scrapped in 2002, and the space station has never had a dedicated escape system.