Ralph Emmett Gibson, 59, deputy chief of public services for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration since 1971, died Sunday at the Washington Adventist Hospital. He had a heart ailment.

Mr. Gibson joined NASA's public affairs division in 1963. Before being named deputy chief of public services, he held several other executive positions, including that of news chief.

Earlier, he was a public information supervisor for the Duke Power Co. in Charlotte, N.C. for 10 years. From 1947 to 1953, he was a reporter and later an assistant city editor for the Charlotte (N.C.) News.

He was born in Laurinburg, N.C., and attended journalism school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

A retired Army Reserve lieutenant colonel, he served in the Army Signal Corps in Europe during World War II, achieving the rank of major. He was recalled to active duty in 1951-52. His military decorations include the Bronze Star Medal.

Mr. Gibson lived in Bethesda. He was a member of the Reserve Officers Association and the North Carolina Society of Washington.

Survivors include his wife, the former Claire M. Marshall, and a daughter, Claire Elizabeth, both of Bethesda; a son, John Alexander of Charlotte, N.C.; a brother, J. Thomas Gibson of Manteo, N.C., and a sister, Doris G. Adams of Laurinburg, N.C.