Re: NASA has concerns over SpaceX culture??!?
but they've sat on their ass and not done any significant basic rocket research since the '70s WHICH IS THEIR JOB
What do you define as "significant basic rocket research?"
NASA has been steadily testing rocket engines, propellants, and structures since the 1970s. Aerospikes, composites, exotic propellants, new engine cycles - they all get tested at NASA. And it hasn't ignored the atmospheric side, either. Whether it's looking into quiet supersonic transport or more efficient jet engines, aircraft and engine makers benefit strongly from NASA's ongoing research.
But then there's that valley of death in implementation. A new rocket is billions of dollars of investment, so how is NASA supposed to apply some great innovation if the commercial world doesn't want to spend $5 billion on a new model rocket and the White House or Capital Hill deletes the moon/Mars/space base program that needed the rocket?
They've talked about recovering boosters FOREVER and not done it.
NASA recovered very large boosters over 130 times. I work with some of the team members that cleaned up and prepped those recovered boosters for the next launch. If you want NASA to build additional recoverable boosters of some new form, then I'd suggest:
1) Get Congress to secure several billion in funding
2) Get a commercial partner to build the boosters, because NASA never had a significant rocket factory
3) Get Congress to not cancel the years-long contract after the next election
All NASA can do in such an organization is lobby, plead, and argue for money. It doesn't set the federal budget that decides how it can innovate.
And Gemini was supposed to be recovered by parasail, and they bottled out again.
The short version is that Gemini's Rogallo wing development was slower than the rest of the program. They had a spaceship ready to fly while the Rogallo wing was still failing. Rather than let that hold up the program, NASA "got'er done" with plan B: parachutes.
The longer version is that while the Gemini capsule developed rapidly the Rogallo test vehicle ("Parasev") handled poorly in the air, crashed, and had a steep learning curve. (Gemini wasn't using proven commercial Rogallo hang glider technology. Instead, it was developing the technology that would lead to Rogallo wings in hang gliding use.) And just as the Parasev started working well, the Rogallo wing-equipped Gemini capsules were running into problems. Wind tunnel tests showed the capsules' wing liked to disintegrate in adverse landing conditions. (Solution: only land in nice weather.) Beyond the wind tunnel tests, there were problems with deploying the wing in real world conditions, which led to destruction of test vehicles.
Instead of spending another couple of years ironing out the Rogallo wing, NASA launched the Gemini capsule with parachutes and the USAF looked into "Winged Gemini." It was a get'er done attitude that didn't let technological setbacks or paperwork hold up the program. Speaking of which...
Commercial crew is ready to go, except NASA can't get the paperwork together.
NASA has the blood of 17 astronauts on its hands from other times when it decided to ignore the paperwork and just go ahead with the test or launch. Apollo 1: rushed too fast, numerous deficiencies in blueprints, testing and safety, three dead astronauts. Challenger: ignored the flight data that said the SRBs had a leakage problem and ignored the spaceship's manufacturer's paperwork that said, "Shuttles are not meant to launch in this weather," seven dead astronauts. Columbia: smoothed over safety briefings identifying risks in heat shield damage, seven dead astronauts.
Now, NASA is responsible for vetting US-built spacecraft as safe for human flight. It probably is going to go a bit slowly.