Terraziel: I agree on the need for some sort of middle of the road mission, as well as the fact that difficulty isn't granular enough. However, I also think that completing a lot of the mission in question then making it ALWAYS harder is also a bad thing. "Congratulations, now you've done a lot of something you've liked, so now we've turned it into something that has a lot more risk and that you therefore don't like!"
I think what we really need to do is make two new mission types: lava escape lite, and journey to something-less-than-perfection. Completing these two a few times would then unlock the ultra-hardcore versions that the hardcore could complete, basically with more risk but otherwise the same general idea of gameplay. Nobody is missing out on anything, and we keep the same general model.
Bluddy: You make some good points, as always, but in this case there's just no way we could switch up the model to that degree and have any sort of a sane 1.0 version. And honestly I don't think that particular sort of change would be very positive, because it would actually increase the penalty for death (settlements getting low on settlers, etc), the CP ever increasing without your getting tier orbs would fundamentally break the game (making it possible to lose), and various other problems. That's a whole other game you're basically describing, and it would take months to get there.
Given that you have to go explore some houses and other buildings every so often anyhow, just looking for all sorts of things, the loss of upgrade points isn't normally a giant deal in the first place unless you are really sending guys through the grinder. Which, as you pointed out, the game is encouraging you not to do as much as it can. Which really does make these two missions kind of incompatible with the rest of the game, as you pointed out.
BobTheJanitor: Agreed on the thematic issues, but as you alluded to those are somewhat secondary.
TLDR: I think we need to think of new, less-hardcore rules for these types of missions. And then make those the ones that get unlocked early, and these hardcore versions unlocked as an optional alternative by winning those ones a bit.
So we've got something like "Water Escape" as martyn_van_buren's lava escape lite: http://www.arcengames.com/mantisbt/view.php?id=6318
It gives you an Acid Gills instead of a heatsuit, and so the water doesn't harm you, but it does majorly slow you down and make things harder. If the water reaches the exit at the top of the level before you, then you lose the mission but nothing bad happens to you personally.
So how would it work for "Journey To Perfection" lite? One idea: you're guiding some sort of "flying buddy" to the exit. AA missiles don't notice him, but they do notice you. Your damage against enemies is increased, but the damage you take is not. However, one hit will kill your buddy, and he sticks really closely to you. If he dies, you lose.
Therefore, in both missions you still retain the usual risk of death: get hit by a lot of monsters and you die. But on the other hand, there's not any form of instant death condition in either. For that matter, this could become the SOLE method of journey to perfection, in my opinion. But lava escape is still interesting outside of watery escape, potentially.
Or maybe both of these just need to be plain-out altered. Heatsuits make you invulnerable to lava, but don't aid your movement in it. This would be helpful for a number of places, where falling in the lava isn't therefore going to be death-in-5-seconds, but rather making you super easy prey for monsters. That wouldn't really make the lava flats any easier, for instance, but it would turn the existing lava escape into the proposed watery escape pretty much in one go.
And then just changing JTP to be the "guard your buddy" type of mission where he's at one-shot risk and you're not, and we've got ourselves another mission that is more in keeping with the general spirit of the game, while still retaining the hard challenge of actually completing these things.
The stakes are lower, making things less tense in a lot of respects, but that's... well, that's in keeping with the rest of the game, too. "Death is supposed to be the culmination of a series of mistakes," as I keep saying over and over again. And right now even the existence of lava without some defense (heatsuits not protecting you at all) is counter to that. Heatsuits could even just reduce the damage from lava by something like 100x, so instead of 5 seconds to escape you have 500 seconds, which is 8.3 minutes. If you can't get out in 8 minutes, then you pretty much have it coming to you.
That would keep the tenseness of "lava always damages me," while making it so that lava isn't such an instantly-deadly threat.