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Plastics are made from organic solids, and recent studies indicate that pound for pound they are a better shield against galactic cosmic rays then some metals.

If you are lifting mass to orbit or moving it around, less mass is best. Asteroids and comets are obvious sources for metals. These may prove more economical sources for metals then sources launched from Earth.

What about source materials for making plastics, are there any sources in our solar system other then Earth for raw materials?

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    $\begingroup$ How "raw" can the materials be? Ideally one would want longish hydrocarbon chains, but methane (e.g., from comets) could be synthesized to such with significant effort. Likewise if the ore quality of the base material (energy cost to extract into a useful form) is relatively unimportant, then carbonaceous asteroids could provide the elemental ingredients. $\endgroup$ – Paul A. Clayton Sep 6 '13 at 13:21
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    $\begingroup$ @PaulA.Clayton - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tholin $\endgroup$ – Deer Hunter Sep 6 '13 at 15:00
  • $\begingroup$ @PaulA.Clayton as raw as you would like. I think your comment combined with the one from Deer Hunter are on the way to answer. $\endgroup$ – James Jenkins Sep 6 '13 at 15:20
  • $\begingroup$ You might wish to take a gander at ibnlive.in.com/news/… Apparently Cassini detected propylene on Titan $\endgroup$ – Everyone Oct 1 '13 at 20:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Everyone sounds like a good source for a new answer. $\endgroup$ – James Jenkins Oct 15 '13 at 14:52
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YES there are raw materials for making plastics other than found on earth(as far as we explored the solar system). Since major of raw material of the plastics are from the petrochemicals (they are chain of carbons and other organic compounds).

It is possible to grow genetically engineered plants in space to extract raw material for making plastics

We've engineered a new metabolic pathway in plants for producing a kind of fatty acid that could be used as a source of precursors to chemical building blocks for making plastics such as polyethylene

Rich organic compounds are found in the meteorites and also in the space dust

Ethane and methane are found in the lakes of titan but they must processed to convert them into a polymer

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  • $\begingroup$ Simple hydrocarbons, such as methane, are relatively abundant in celestial objects besides Earth. The problem is that the best sources we know of are found in relatively steep gravity wells (the planets and moons of gas giants); Titan, for instance, has vast oceans of liquid methane, but to access them you first have to survive the trip down (the Huygens probe launched by Cassini lasted just long enough to take and send a picture proving it was on the surface, before its power source failed from the extreme cold), then you have to climb out of not only Titan's gravity well, but Jupiter's. $\endgroup$ – KeithS Sep 6 '13 at 15:48
  • $\begingroup$ This makes collecting hydrocarbons for use in orbital "bio-factories" a losing proposition for the moment. Currently, the fuel for the rockets that get our stuff into space comprises the overwhelming majority of vehicle mass at launch. Probably the best we've done is the Space Shuttle orbiter, which, despite having a mass of 110,000kg, represents only 7% of the mass of the complete launch vehicle. $\endgroup$ – KeithS Sep 6 '13 at 16:08
  • $\begingroup$ @KeithS: The Huygens probe wasn't designed to last long on Titan, the battery failed because it ran out of juice, not because of the cold. It would be possible to land on Titan and extract resources with today's technology, particularly if some sort of a nuclear reactor is used. $\endgroup$ – PearsonArtPhoto Sep 12 '13 at 10:16

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