Ben Cooper  /  NASA
Space Shuttle Discovery launched on its STS-131 mission from Kennedy Space Center in Florida shortly before dawn on April 5, 2010. Time-elapsed photography captures Discovery's path to orbit. Liftoff from Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida was at 6:21 a.m. ET April 5 on the STS-131 mission.
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updated 4/25/2011 1:09:21 PM ET 2011-04-25T17:09:21

Upwards of half a million people are expected to crowd Florida's Space Coast next Friday (April 29) to watch the space shuttle Endeavour lift off one more time.

If you're one of them, we've got you covered. Here's what you need to know to get a great view of Endeavour's launch:

Where to watch
The primary consideration of any launch viewing hopeful is the question of where to stake out a spot. The closest perch available to the public is at the NASA Causeway, about 6 miles (9.6 km) from the Endeavour's Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. NASA sells tickets for $59 ($49 for children) for this spot, which offers an unobstructed view over the Banana River. [ Photos: Shuttle Endeavour's Final Mission ]

NASA also sells tickets to secondary sites at its Kennedy Space Center Visitor's Center, and at the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, tickets for all three sites are long gone. If you haven't already ordered one months in advance, forget about it.

But fear not, for fantastic views are easy to find — and free — throughout the space coast.

The town of Titusville, about 12 miles across the Indian River from Kennedy Space Center, is a premiere spot. Its numerous parks along the water, including Space View Park and Parrish Park (which is located on the causeway between Titusville and the space center) are top choices for shuttle watchers.

"Titusville is definitely the place to go," said Ben Cooper, a space photographer for NASA and other media outlets. "It has the best view — there's no comparison."

Another good option is the Port Canaveral area, where cruise ships depart from. This spot is slightly farther (about 13 1/2 miles from Kennedy Space Center), but, as with Titusville, offers an unobstructed view of Endeavour's launch pad. [Most Memorable Space Shuttle Missions ]

"That's the second best place after Titusville," Cooper told SPACE.com. "The view in my opinion is not as nice, because it's got telephone wires. But other than that there's no other place you can go where you can see the launch pad itself."

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Nearby Cocoa beach is also a popular location.

To help you choose the perfect spot, Cooper's web site of launch viewing advice includes photos of shuttle launches from all the various options. His site is here: http://www.launchphotography.com/Shuttle_Launch_Viewing.html

When to go
Once you've decided where to go, you'll have to weigh rest and convenience against the necessity of heading out early for a primo location.

With Endeavour's liftoff toward the International Space Station scheduled for April 29 at 3:47 p.m. ET (1947 GMT), folks should probably plan on arriving at public parks at least six to eight hours early to stake out a claim.

"I think it's going to require getting there earlier than usual," Cooper said, given the high-profile nature of this final launch for Endeavour, the penultimate launch of the space shuttle program. "For this one, probably get there in the morning. If you have camera equipment, I would get there when the sun comes up."

The largest crowds will likely show up a few hours before liftoff, while the most industrious will probably camp out overnight.

"I would go early in the morning and just plan to spend the day," said Robert Varley, executive director of Florida's Space Coast Office of Tourism.

What else you need to knowIn the final moments, many people weigh their desire to take pictures of the blastoff to capture the moment against their wish to see the launch through their own eyes. [Video: NASA's First Space Shuttle Launch]

Cooper recommends trying to do some of both. He also suggested bringing a tripod and setting up the shot so that the camera could fire away automatically while you bask in the scene.

Other must haves are a blanket or chair, snacks, a book, and games for your kids to play to while away the waiting hours. Bug spray and sunblock won't go amiss either.

Finally, a handheld radio or scanner will allow you to tune in to NASA TV for countdown commentary to stay abreast of developments that could impact launch. If the weather isn't clear or a technical glitch arises, NASA will have to scrub the launch for the day and try again later.

One more chance
If you can't make it to Endeavour's STS-134 liftoff, NASA plans one more shuttle flight. On June 28, the shuttle Atlantis is slated to launch to the International Space Station, capping off the space shuttle program's 30-year career. 

While near record crowds are expected for next week, the Atlantis mission will likely top even that.

Varley predicted that over a million people would turn out for their last chance to see a space shuttle blast off this summer.

"It's like everybody's looking on their bucket list and going, 'Ooh, I haven't seen that yet,'" Varley said. "It's just phenomenal."

Despite the crowds, seeing the shuttle's blindingly bright flame tail and feeling the roar of the rocket's engines is an unforgettable experience.

"In my opinion, it's worth fighting the crowds to see something that's never going to happen again," Cooper said.

But, if all else fails, you can always catch a live feed of the shuttle launch on NASA TV.

You can follow SPACE.com senior writer Clara Moskowitz on Twitter @ClaraMoskowitz.Follow SPACE.com for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcom and onFacebook.

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Photos: The life of space shuttle Endeavour

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  1. Special delivery

    Endeavour was the last space shuttle to join NASA's fleet: It was built to replace the shuttle Challenger, which was lost in an explosion shortly after launch in 1986. This view shows Endeavour perched atop a modified Boeing 747 on May 2, 1991, beginning the ferry flight from Palmdale, Calif. - where the shuttle was built - to Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. First liftoff

    Endeavour lifts off from Launch Pad 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on May 7, 1992, beginning its first mission. The STS-49 mission's primary task was the repair of the Intelsat VI telecommunications satellite. Endeavour was the only shuttle to make its maiden flight from Pad 39B. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Grab that satellite!

    Endeavour astronauts Richard Hieb, Thomas Akers and Pierre Thuot hold onto the 4.5-ton Intelsat VI satellite after making a six-handed "capture" on May 13, 1992. The satellite failed to rise above low Earth orbit when it was launched in 1990. During Endeavour's maiden mission, astronauts retrieved the satellite, attached it to a new upper-stage booster and relaunched it to its intended geosynchronous orbit. This mission marked the first time that three people from the same spacecraft walked in space at the same time. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Science in space

    Endeavour astronauts Jan Davis, left, and Mae Jemison prepare to deploy the lower body negative pressure apparatus on Sept. 15, 1992. Scientific research was the main focus of this Spacelab-J mission, also known as STS-47. The mission's crew included the first African-American woman to fly in space (Mae Jemison) and the only husband-and-wife team to go into space together (Jan Davis and Mark Lee). (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Fixing Hubble

    Astronauts flew on Endeavour to take on the first Hubble servicing mission in December 1993. In this picture, spacewalkers Story Musgrave and Jeffrey Hoffman perform an orbital ballet. The coastline of western Australia is visible below. The complex and highly successful repair mission allowed Hubble, which was launched with a defective mirror, to see into the universe with unprecedented clarity. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Building the station

    Endeavour spacewalker Jim Newman holds onto the International Space Station's Unity connecting module as he removes covers and works on connecting cables on Dec. 7, 1998. The STS-88 flight marked the shuttle fleet's first space station assembly mission. (AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Erroneous endeavor

    The shuttle Endeavour sits on its launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 11, 2007. "Endeavor" is spelled incorrectly on the banner. The shuttle was named after the HMS Endeavour, the British sailing ship that carried Captain James Cook on his first voyage of discovery from 1768 to 1771. That's why Endeavour reflects the British spelling of the word. (Eliot J. Schechter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Spacewalkers at work

    During the first spacewalk of the STS-118 mission, on Aug. 11, 2007, astronaut Rick Mastracchio and Canada's Dave Williams (out of frame) attach a new segment of the International Space Station's truss and retract a collapsible radiator. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Class portrait

    The crew members of Endeavour's STS-118 crew pose for their official portrait on Aug. 8, 2007. From left are Rick Mastracchio, Barbara Morgan, pilot Charles Hobaugh, mission commander Scott Kelly, Tracy Caldwell, Canadian astronaut Dave Williams and Alvin Drew. During this flight, Morgan became the first educator astronaut to go into orbit. In 1986, she was the backup for Christa McAuliffe, the New Hampshire teacher who died in the Challenger explosion. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Great view

    Endeavour spacewalker Rick Mastracchio relocates communications equipment on the International Space Station during an outing on Aug. 15, 2007. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A gouge in the tiles

    Tiles on the underside of the space shuttle Endeavour show evidence of damage in a photo taken on Aug. 12, 2007, using the shuttle's robotic arm and a camera-tipped extension boom. The close-up imagery helped mission managers determine that the gouge would pose no threat during Endeavour's atmospheric re-entry. (NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Eye of the hurricane

    Crew members aboard the shuttle Endeavour captured this picture of Hurricane Dean's eye in the Caribbean on Aug. 18, 2007. The STS-118 mission ended on Aug. 21, one day earlier than planned, to avoid potential complications due to the storm. Forecasters worried that Hurricane Dean could have swept over Houston around the time of landing - but in the end, the storm took a different course. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. In control

    NASA Administrator Michael Griffin watches the liftoff of the space shuttle Endeavour from the Launch Control Center at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Nov. 14, 2008. The STS-126 mission delivered two spare bedrooms as well as a second kitchen and bathroom to the International Space Station. (Bill Ingalls / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Repairs at the pad

    Workers perform repairs on the shuttle Endeavour's external fuel tank at the Kennedy Space Center launch pad on June 14, 2009. The launch team detected a leak of hydrogen fuel from the tank, forcing a delay in Endeavour's STS-127 launch. The mission's main task was the delivery of the final segment of Japan's Kibo laboratory to the International Space Station. (Tim Jacobs / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Lightning strikes

    A giant bolt of lightning hits Endeavour's Florida launch pad on July 10, 2009. Technical problems and severe weather forced five delays in Endeavour's STS-127 launch. (Gene Blevins / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Liftoff at last!

    The space shuttle Endeavour rises from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A on July 15, 2009, on the STS-127 mission's sixth launch attempt. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Parting glance

    The space shuttle Endeavour is photographed from the International Space Station soon after its departure on July 28, 2009. A Soyuz spacecraft docked at the station is visible in the foreground. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Twilight of the shuttle

    The shuttle Endeavour is silhouetted against different layers of the sunlit atmosphere during its approach to the International Space Station on Feb. 9, 2010. The primary payloads for Endeavour's STS-130 mission were the Tranquility module and the Cupola observation deck and control station. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Check out this view!

    Astronaut George Zamka, Endeavour's commander for the STS-130 mission, peeks out a window of the International Space Station's newly installed Cupola observation deck on Feb. 19, 2010. The Cupola provides an unparalleled view of Earth below. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Tanks for the memories

    The external fuel tank for Endeavour's final mission, STS-134, is transported to the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 14, 2010. STS-134's main payload is the $2 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, an international physics experiment. (John Raoux / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. The view from above

    The space shuttle Endeavour is lowered into place for attachment to its external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters in the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 1, 2011. (NASA via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Greeting the day

    The sun rises as photographers gather on a hill to take pictures shortly after the shuttle Endeavour's arrival at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A on March 11, 2011. (Roberto Gonzalez / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Into the clouds

    Photographers track the space shuttle Endeavour's ascent as it pierces the clouds and disappears after launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 16. (Craig Rubadoux / Daytona Beach News-Journal via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Godspeed, Endeavour!

    Spectators react as the space shuttle Endeavour lifts off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 16. Hundreds of thousands of people watched the start of the next-to-last space shuttle flight. (Scott Audette / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Above the clouds

    Stefanie Gordon captured this remarkable picture of the space shuttle Endeavour rising above Florida's cloud cover on May 16 while she was on a commercial flight from New York to Palm Beach, Fla. (Stefanie Gordon / for msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. The last spacewalk

    NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff holds a handrail during the fourth and last spacewalk conducted by the shuttle Endeavour's crew at the International Space Station on May 27. Chamitoff and astronaut Michael Fincke (visible in the reflections from Chamitoff's helmet visor) transferred an inspection boom system, completing U.S. assembly of the station. The May 27 outing marked the last scheduled spacewalk to be conducted by a space shuttle crew. (Nasa T.V. via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Night passage

    Backdropped by a nighttime view of Earth and the starry sky, the space shuttle Endeavour is seen docked to the International Space Station on May 28. (NASA via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Landing in the dark

    The space shuttle Endeavour lands for the last time at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 1, 2011. The touchdown capped Endeavour's 16-day mission to deliver a $2 billion science experiment to the International Space Station on NASA's next-to-last shuttle flight. (Joe Skipper / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Blastoff into history

    A NASA poster pays tribute to Endeavour and its space missions over the past two decades. The shuttle is shown rising to orbit, with patches for each of its missions laid out in a spiral. The HMS Endeavour, which inspired the spaceship's name, is shown at lower right. At upper left, pictures of Endeavour are framed in the windows of the Cupola. The background image depicts the nebula NGC 602 as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope, which was first serviced by Endeavour in 1993. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
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