Factually as related to the crewed space program I don't think your conclusion holds up.
After the Apollo 1 fatal accident in January 1967, the first crewed flight of Apollo was delayed from its scheduled February 1967 to October 1968, a delay of 20 months.
After the Challenger fatal accident in January 1986, the next STS launch was delayed until September 1988, a delay of 32 months.
After the Columbia fatal accident in January 2003, the next STS launch was delayed until July 2005, a delay of 30 months.
The difference between a 20 month program delay after a fatal accident and a 30 month delay doesn't seem to qualify as "lost its collective balls".
And as for the manned space program in the 1960's, Alan Shepard aboard Mercury-Redstone 3 would have beaten Yuri Gagarin and been the first human into space if the previous Mercury-Redstone 2 had not exhibited some anomalies (which the chimpanzee aboard survived fine) and influenced NASA to add another test flight before launching Shepard. So NASA was not quite as "ballsy" back then as the legends have it.