The craft, modeled on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey, will arrive at Mars in September 2014, where it will have one (Earth) year to carry out its investigations. MAVEN will enter an elliptical http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellipse orbit around the planet, ranging from 90 to 3,870 miles above its surface, and dipping to 80 miles in order to sample the upper atmosphere.
At this pace we will simply never make it to the Red Planet in person. As in "ever." The present Mars exploration paradigm screams for reinvention.