We were very lucky to get NASA employee passes to view the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-131) from the NASA Causeway, approximately 6 miles due south of Launch Pad 39A. We were joined by Valerie's parents and this was the first time any of us had seen a launch in person. There are only 4 more missions on the manifest (including STS-131) before the Shuttle program is retired.
The launch occurred at 6:21 AM EDT on Monday, April 5, 2010. We arrived at Kennedy Space Center around 12:30 AM, about 30 minutes before the gates opened. This paid off: as one of the first few cars allowed on the causeway, we had a spectacular front-row view very close to where we parked and were able to get into the traffic line and drive off of the center rather quickly after the launch.
All in all, the lack of sleep was very well worth it! This was a very special morning for us all, one we will never forget.
In another stroke of good luck, I was at Kennedy Space Center a few weeks before the launch for a meeting and was able to get a tour around Pad 39A while Discovery was sitting out there. It was pretty special to be able to get an up-close view of the orbiter, knowing we'd be back there in a few weeks to see it fly.
For those wondering, here's the camera gear I used for the launch
* Nikon D200 DSLR
* Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II with 1.7x teleconverter
* Nikon 12-24mm f/4G ED-IF
* Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II
* Sony HD camcorder