China’s Mars rover has been going in for a close look at rocks and sand dunes in the two months since it touched down on the red planet. The China National Space Administration (CNSA) said on Monday that the Zhu Rong rover was performing well and was continuing to send back images of the Martian surface . The CNSA said the device had covered more than 410 metres (1,345 feet) by Sunday night, taking photos of features along the way. The rover landed on Mars on May 14 on a large plain in the northern hemisphere known as Utopia Planitia. Since then, it had been travelling south, using various sensors to assess atmospheric and magnetic conditions, the administration said. The Zhu Rong is part of the Tianwen 1 mission, China’s first independent Mars exploration mission . The rover lifted off from southern China just under a year ago, along with a lander and an orbiter to relay information to and from Earth. It entered Mars orbit in February before touching down three months later. The mission is part of China’s ambition to retrieve samples from Mars in 2030 and send crews to the planet for exploration in 2033. China is the third country to land on the planet after the United States and the Soviet Union. The Zhu Rong is not alone on Mars – Nasa’s Curiosity and Perseverance rovers are also working on the planet. So far the United States has landed successfully on Mars eight times. The Soviet Union was the first to achieve the feat in 1971, but the lander soon stopped communicating and the federation’s subsequent attempts all failed. China’s efforts to explore Mars date back to 2011 with the launch of the Yinghuo 1 mission, involving a Mars probe attached to a Russian spacecraft. But the spacecraft was stranded in orbit and ended up being lost before crashing into the Pacific Ocean the next year. China has been trying to catch up with the United States in space technology and is making progress with several space-related programmes. Three astronauts are in orbit building China’s own space station, the Tiangong, which is expected to be completed next year. The International Space Station developed by the United States, Russia and other countries is ageing and approaching the end of its intended life in 2024.