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The Cryogenic chamber, also known as a Cryo chamber, was a device capable of keeping someone alive but near death for long periods of time. Such might be necessary for medical reasons, or to enable interstellar journeys which would last decades and otherwise become multi-generational events.
River Tam was placed in one of these chambers, so that she could be transported away from the hands of the Union of Allied Planets by her brother Simon Tam. She was, however, released prematurely by Malcolm Reynolds when he wanted to know why the Alliance was so interested in the container.