What is driving your debt? are you buying too much energy? Needing water? etc
Well, till T3 it's mostly electricity, since I think scientists have too few claims to build electricity earlier than t3. After that it is food and water.
The Managing Expectations map is harder than most RNG maps. Especially because the challenge is in scanning mode instead of reveal map mode.
I wouldn't worry too much about finishing the challenge, as a normal skirmish game should be easier. But if you want to, I would probably found north of the colony near the water, iron, and silicon as Expansive. Which will help with the shipping costs that you will accrue on the mission. Make sure you use the adjacency bonus for production buildings.
I am founding between iron and silicon north of the colony so that I can make steel and glass without transports and I transport aluminium. Just as a personal preference I try to run with the scientists (personal preference). I always try to use adjacency bonuses.
So far I try to fine tune this build order:
T1: 2 steel mills next to base, 1 high aluminium south. Wait for resources, upgrade to T2
T2: 1 steel mill in triangle, 1 silicon mine, 1 glass kiln. Last claim I tried to vary. I tried windmill, water pump, another glass kiln, electrolysis reactor, electronics factory. None of those seemed better than the others to me.
T3: here I tried really various stuff. Usually I try to rush patents and some production. Like ramping up food, fuel, glass, even electronics. But at this stage I am already in deep debts and buyout warnings start popping up. I don't see that much space for the optimization center, cause chems are expensive already at this stage.
T4: just a continuation of T3, but usually I get bought out at this stage.
Am I wrong in assuming that diversification of production is a bad idea and you should specialize in 1, max 2 products really heavily and pray their price goes up?