The show of the summer promises more fireworks than the 4th of July. More national pride than the Olympic Games. More energy than a Bruce Springsteen concert. And NASA's giving out free tickets.

If you have connections.When Discovery lifts off in August, up to a million people are expected to crowd the Brevard County waterfront in hopes of getting a good view. But an elite group of politicians, celebrities, business leaders and other power brokers won't have to strain.

Only 2,500 people will make NASA's guest list for VIP seating and those tickets promise to be hotter than beach sand four months from now.

The Discovery launch "is going to be the biggest happening, at least for the summer, in the United States, said Ralph McMullen, executive director of the Brevard County Tourism Development Council. "It could be the major event . . . (of) this year, outside the presidential election."

Those who don't get an invitation to watch from the proposed new VIP site 3.3 miles from the pad still might get on one of the lesser guest lists.

About 2,000 more lucky invitees will be assigned a spot a few miles further away. And another 45,000 or so lesser names, including anyone's Aunt Margie and Uncle Bob, can apply for a choice parking spot several more miles from the pad if they write Kennedy Space Center public affairs officials.

Everybody else will have to fight the crowds in Titusville or Port Canaveral.

For NASA, this is the long awaited chance to refurbish a seriously tarnished image. All its biggest fans and vocal critics since the January, 1986, Challenger accident Congressmen, industry officials, national opinion leaders will be scrambling for seats in the VIP section from which to pass judgment.