We're not talking about the space shuttle, though I tried my best to make it sound that way.
We're talking about the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. Designed by Boeing (one of the principal contractors for shuttle operations) and Bell (who supply 95% of all Marine Corps. helicopter contracts), the V-22 is the first production tilt-rotor aircraft; it converts from a helicopter-type flight mode to a aircraft-type flight mode in mid-air. The program began in 1982. The first test flight suffered a non-fatal crash. Within one year of initial flight test, a the Osprey's first fatal accident had occurred.
More importantly, though, let's talk about a comparison of the two. Both are programs that have failed in some ways; both have suffered fatal accidents in the recent past. Both were developed to meet military requirements (yes, the shuttle was heavily influenced by USAF/DoD requirements; reference here). Both have run over-budget consistently. Both have manufacturers (or operators) who say "We just need a little more time, a little more money, a little more to make it perfectly safe."
And both of them are lying to you. One of them should be.
Fundamentally, the Space Shuttle is an experimental vehicle. We've flown them a grand total of 113 times. The X-15 program, which was certainly considered an experimental program throughout its lifetime, was flown a total of 199 times. As an experimental vehicle, the fact is that there is some risk, and it isn't perfectly safe to fly it. Everyone stepping into the shuttle knows that, and accepts it. The only people who like to be told otherwise are politicians and the public; the one because it doesn't like the idea of $2 billion worth of taxes going up in flames and needing explanation, and the other because they don't like the idea of dead astronauts.
These reasons are why people are asking "Who is to blame?" The truth is, there probably isn't anyone to blame. It will probably wind up being some unforeseen problem, some interaction of a minor problem with an unknown that caused this tragedy. In test programs, people die. Planes crash and burn. This is a fact of life for test pilots. The program lies because we want to believe it is safe, that we can launch 2200 tons into the sky and bring back 100 tons with 7 people on board, without ever screwing it up.
The V-22 is not an experimental vehicle. It's more or less a direct successor to NASA's successful XV-15 test program. So why does it crash? Most likely for all the reasons that people accuse NASA of losing space shuttles; bureaucratic mismanagement, cost-cutting, and flat-out incompetence. They lie to you to cover their asses.
So why don't we hear a cry to cancel the V-22, or to develop a next-generation successor? Why don't we have front page news when it crashes? Why does it get a free pass from the public to continue operations, when the Shuttle gets a 2 year halt while they track down a single problem? Why don't we hear about the V-22 conspiracies, the whistle-blowers who get fired and disappear?
Why are we surprised that the government has problems with safely putting people into space? It seems to have proven it can't even put people into the air without killing them, 100 years after the beginnings of manned flight. NASA has a better track record than the V-22 program.
People talk about "NASA doesn't care about safety". Seems like they're doing OK to me.