Mechanisms for the electron-induced degradation of poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) and Kapton polyimide (PMDA-ODA), both of which are commonly used in aerospace applications, were examined over a temperature range of 10 K to 300 K under ultra high vacuum (∼10(-11) Torr). The experiments were designed to simulate the interaction between the polymer materials and secondary electrons produced by interaction with galactic cosmic ray particles in the near-Earth space environment. Chemical alterations of the samples were monitored on line and in situ by Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry during irradiation with 5 keV electrons and also prior and after the irradiation exposure via UV-vis. The irradiation-induced degradation of PMMA resulted in the formation and unimolecular decomposition of methyl carboxylate radicals (CH(3)OCO) forming carbon monoxide (k = 4.60 × 10(-3) s(-1)) and carbon dioxide (k = 1.29 × 10(-3) s(-1)). Temperature dependent gas-phase abundances for carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and molecular hydrogen were also obtained for the PMMA and Kapton samples. The lower gas yields detected for irradiated Kapton were typically one or two orders of magnitude less than PMMA suggesting a higher degradation resistance to energetic electrons. In addition, UV-vis spectroscopy revealed the propagation of conjugated bonds induced by the irradiation of PMMA and indicated a decrease in the optical band gap by an increase in absorbance above 500 nm in irradiated Kapton.