In the low-Earth-orbit environment, solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation embrittles polymer materials through bond breaking and crosslinking. This UV embrittlement increases the surface hardness of the polymer. Before the durability of polymer materials in the low- Earth-orbit environment can be predicted, the extent of UV embrittlement needs to be determined. However, traditional techniques for measuring the microhardness of materials cannot be employed to measure changes in the hardness of UV-embrittled surfaces because traditional techniques measure bulk hardness and are not sensitive enough to surface changes. A unique technique was used at the NASA Lewis Research Center to quantify polymer surface damage that had been induced by UV radiation. The technique uses an atomic force microscope (AFM) to measure surface microhardness. An atomic force microscope measures the repulsive forces between the atoms in a microscopic cantilevered tip and the atoms on the surface of a sample. Typically, an atomic force microscope produces a topographic image of a surface by monitoring the movement of the tip over features of the surface. The force applied to the cantilevered tip, and the indention of the tip into the surface, can be measured. The relationship between force and distance of indentation, the quantity force/distance (newtons/meter), provides a measure of the surface hardness. Under identical operating conditions, direct comparisons of surface hardness values can be made.