By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated July 12, 2002 01:00 AM

JOEY FOR ‘RENT’: While bandmate Lance Bass is eyeing the Milky Way (see below), ‘N Sync’s Joey Fatone has his sights set on the Great White Way. The singer will make his debut on Broadway Aug. 5 in the long-running, Pulitzer Prize-winning musical “Rent.” The New York Times, heralding this cultural marriage of the worlds of musical theater and pop music, reports that Fatone, 25, is scheduled to play the role of the struggling video artist Mark in the show, which is a contemporary take on the Puccini opera “La Boheme,” through Dec. 22. “It’s just a cutting-edge kind of thing,” Fatone told The Times about auditioning for the show, and admitting that he also gave some thought to trying out for Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.”

LANCE IN SPACE: After previous denials that anyone from the Russian space agency Rosaviakosmos spoke to ‘N Sync wannabe astronaut Lance Bass about his blasting off on a mission this fall, officials in Moscow told Reuters on Tuesday that the singer is now negotiating to head into space. “What we can confirm is that talks are going on,” space agency spokesman Konstantin Kredenko told the news service. “No contract has been signed. The talks could lead to one being signed, but so far there is no time frame for this.” In May, amid widespread publicity, the singer, 23, said he had received a preliminary okay from Russian physicians to undertake the week-long flight, a feat that would fulfill a lifelong fantasy of his as well as make him the first pop star in orbit and the youngest space traveler yet.

SHARON RECOVERS: MTV matriarch Sharon Osbourne was released from an undisclosed Los Angeles-area hospital and is “in good spirits and doing well” following surgery for colon cancer, family spokeswoman Lisa Vega told the Associated Press. Doctors, who operated on Osbourne late last week, expect her to make a full recovery. The disease was in its early stages, Vega said, and declined comment on exactly when Osbourne, 50, was released. The MTV mom wishes to thank all people who passed along “support and kind thoughts . . . over the past week,” the rep said.

NO-SHOW STEWART: For the second week running, Martha Stewart, 60, did not appear for her regularly scheduled appearance on CBS’s “Early Show” this Wednesday. The domestic diva still remains largely at the center of a congressional investigation into possible insider trading stemming from her sale of nearly 4,000 shares of ImClone last December, a day before the pharmaceutical company’s stock price plunged due to the FDA’s rejection of its cancer treatment drug. “The ‘Early Show’ and Martha Stewart have agreed that she will not appear on the broadcast this week,” the network said in a statement earlier this week. “In the meantime, CBS News will continue to monitor the (ImClone) situation and report on developments.”

MICHAEL FUMES: Michael Jackson, 43, continued his war of words against the music industry and how he thinks it treats African-American artists such as himself. On Tuesday, reported both New York’s Daily News and the Post, Jackson spoke in Harlem at a gathering organized by political activist Rev. Al Sharpton. “The minute I surpassed Elvis and the Beatles,” Jackson said, “they called me a freak, a homosexual, a child molester. They said I bleached my skin. Everything to turn the public against me. It was a complete conspiracy . . . I know my race. I just look in the mirror. I know I’m black.”