Sector 7 wrote:
The hydrogen molecules could have many uses, not the least of which is raw matter for ships stores. The replicators need basic matter to transform into those colorful yet tasty dishes and Earl Grey teas.
If you wanted hydrogen molecules you would be vastly better off stopping by a planet and beaming some up. One liter of water, for example, which you can get in easy abundance from any pond, lake, ocean, glacier, or that matter comet or half of a soda bottle, has about as many hydrogen atoms as you would get by clearing out every single atom in a cube of interplanetary space twice as tall, wide, and broad as the planet Earth. If you're in interstellar space you'd have to cast a much wider net. That's not even getting into the braking effect.